June 20, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
June 20, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

There Is Always a Path to Teshuva

There is a house in Passaic that has a statue of Humpty Dumpty placed on the high wall between their property and the sidewalk. As we know from the children’s rhyme, after Humpty Dumpty fell, he couldn’t be put together again. In passing that statue this week, it made me think about this week’s parsha of Ki Sisa, where Moshe shattered the Luchos (tablets) after observing the sin of the golden calf. After forgiving Bnei Yisrael, Hashem instructed Moshe to carve a second set of Luchos (tablets).

Why did Hashem instruct Moshe to carve a new set of Luchos when He could easily have put the pieces back together? Rav Dessler explains that the first set of tablets was in a pristine state, given to klal Yisrael, who by that time had reached the level of purity of Adam Harishon before his sin with the fruit from the Eitz Hada’as (Tree of Knowledge). But now, after sinning with the golden calf, the Jewish nation needed a new set of Luchos, a new approach to their avodas Hashem.

The Gemara Menachos tells us Hashem created the world with the letter “hei.” The letter hei is open on the bottom. It’s symbolic of our being able to choose a life entirely based on our own decisions and principles. Also, the left leg of the letter hei has a small separation from the top of the letter. This little space signifies that anybody who wants to return to Hashem can climb in through the opening between the top of the leg and the ceiling of the hei.

But why the need for a new place of entry? Why can’t the sinner re-enter through the same door he exited? Rabbi Moshe Cordovero explains that the floor of the letter is too weak to support the sinner once he chose that route to leave. He could slip through again. He therefore needs to re-enter through a higher window. It takes more effort, but the sinner ends up on a much higher level. This is the explanation in the Gemara that says “In the space of a baal teshuva, a great tzaddik cannot stand.”

The Jewish nation could not have back the first set of tablets; those tablets no longer supported them. They needed a new approach. Therefore, Hashem instructed Moshe to spend another 40 days on top of the mountain to relearn the entire Torah, specifically for ba’alei teshuva.

Many times we may slip and fall, getting involved with behaviors or actions that should not take place. The lesson from the aftermath of the golden calf is that we need to take a different approach in re-connecting with Hashem, and then He will accept our return. In fact, there is a Gemara that says the sin of the golden calf occurred just to teach the Jewish nation the concept of returning to Hashem. And when we do sincerely return, Hashem will gladly accept us on an even higher level.

This week is also Parshas Parah, which often coincides with Parshas Ki Sisa. Rashi tells us that the concept of the ashes of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) that are used to purify one who is impure because of contact with a dead person is symbolic of Hashem’s acceptance of Bnei Yisrael’s teshuva after the sin of the golden calf. How so? The Bnei Yisrael reached a level of purity at Har Sinai that would have made them immortal (just as Adam Harishon would have been immortal until his sin with the Tree of Knowledge). These sins caused man to be subject to death. Using the ashes of the Parah Adumah to cleanse one from contamination with death represented Hashem granting us an avenue of return even for one of the greatest sins of all times—the golden calf.

After successfully pleading with Hashem to spare the Jewish nation and forgive them for their sin of the golden calf, Moshe says to Hashem, “Now that I’ve found favor in your eyes, please show me your honor and how to continuously find favor in your eyes.” Hashem agreed to Moshe’s request and showed him an image of Hashem wrapped in a tallis, saying the 13 attributes of mercy.

Why, of all times, did Moshe make his personal request after the sin of the golden calf? I believe that since Hashem accepted the repentance of the Jewish nation after the sin and they felt close to Him, it was a propitious time for Moshe to ask for a better way to maintain ongoing closeness with Hashem. Parah Adumah teaches us that Hashem is always interested in having us close to Him and will forgive us, even after we mess up, just like a parent forgives a child when he apologizes sincerely. In truth, it can even strengthen and intensify the relationship.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged but any contributions are always welcome. Beyond PTI, Rabbi Bodenheim conducts a weekly beis midrash program with chavrusa learning in Livingston plus a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and it’s Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles