Torah Tidbits with Rabbi Oded Karavani

Can I ask you a question? These past few Parshiot seem tedious and dull, no?

If you ask me, we just need to look a little closer. You might possibly find a connection to your daily life...I’d like to share with you mine.

The sin of the Golden Calf. A mega-sin on a national scale. It haunts us until this day. Rashi famously quotes the Gemara in Sanhedrin that states: “Indeed no punishment ever comes upon Israel in which there is not partial payment for the sin of the Golden Calf”.

I actually don’t wish to share with you any insights regarding the sin itself but rather its atonement. How do we “fix” this problem our forefathers created thousands of years ago?

In our Parsha, the Torah mentions the gold, silver and copper that were given to the Mishkan. The Psukim (verses) go on to describe the usage of only silver and copper. The Ramban gives a technical answer that while the silver and copper were used to create vessels, gold was mainly used as a coating.

This still begs a question. Why then doesn't the Torah write that?

The Mefarshim (commentators) say that this was a way to “keep a low profile” as gold was the major component in the sin of the Golden Calf. This answer didn’t satisfy me. I wanted a proper remedy, not an “under the rug” solution.

As I was looking for another answer I came across an idea from Pekeudei's “sister Parasha” of Vayakhel, as we usually read Vayakhel-Pekudei together. The word “Vayakhel” means “to gather”. The word was only used once before. At the sin of the Golden Calf in a negative connotation of course.

Moshe understands that he can’t have the people “gather together” only for sin. They must gather for good as well. This is why he “gathered” them for the tasks of the Mishkan, to engage everyone in positive work.

This got me thinking. Over the past few days, our students at the high school were busy playing and competing together in what turned out to be a memorable Color War. Whether it was the cheering for teammates who took on scary and gross challenges or covering each other in paint at TY Park, in all that positive madness I couldn't help but smile. I couldn’t overcome the thought that we are, in our own way, continuing Moshe’s work. Everyone together, hearing Divrei Torah, laughing at funny skits and sharing beautiful memories. That’s how we can fix that historic sin!

It may be a stretch, but through our Achdut (unity) and companionship this week, we might have actually hastened Moshiach's - even if by a little.

Rabbi Oded Karavani
Director of High School Activities