Rabbi Yehoshua Weber

Dedicated by Barry Green and Esther Rothenstein

Dedicated in loving memory of our dear father Israel Green, Yisroel ben Meir Herz, on his 9th Yahrtzeit, by his children Barry and Esther and their families. We think about you every day.

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The 2008-2009 Gaza war rained missiles of terror and death on southern Israel.

That war also inspired stories of triumph and of commitment.

One such story happened when a ceasefire allowed students to think about returning to their classes at an Ashkelon girls’ high school.

Like many buildings, that school building was damaged by Hamas’ relentless rocket barrage.

The school’s students, though, hungered to return to school.

So, the students - one of whom was Orit Amar – were allowed back into a rocket-scarred school despite the still unrepaired damage.

Orit entered her classroom and was dumbstruck.

Her Tanach was on her desk, where she had left it.

But it was riddled with rocket shrapnel.

Her Tanach had absorbed the shrapnel that was meant for her.

A picture of Orit’s shrapnel-damaged Tanach was featured in many Israeli newspapers which led many people to the following realization: Hamas isn’t just trying to destroy us. It is also trying to destroy our Torah and our ability to transmit Torah.

Yes, Hamas’ attempts at destruction us aren’t just about destroying us.

This, though, isn’t just about Hamas.

This is also about us because our attempts at self-destruction are also about more than just destroying ourselves.

And, yes, we have a penchant for self-destruction.

We do that through sinning. We can do that through negativism. We do that through all sorts counterproductive, self-damaging acts.

And when we do that, we don’t just destroy ourselves.

We also destroy our ability to transmit Torah and goodness.

Such a destruction of oneself and of one’s abilities underlies the following incident.

“When Moshe approached the camp and saw the (idolatrous) calf … he threw the tablets from his hands and he broke them at the foot of the mountain.”[1]

Some assume that Moshe didn’t actually “throw the tablets.”

Those following this approach assume that the tablets, instead, fell from Moshe’s hands.

Those following this approach explain why those tablets fell.

Perhaps Moshe, upon seeing the community sinning with the golden calf, “became too weak” to carry heavy tablets.[2]

Or perhaps the sin denuded the tablets’ holiness - making them too heavy to carry.[3]

Others, though – and this is relevant to our discussion – take the possuk “he threw the tablets from his hands”[4] at face value and assume that Moshe deliberately broke the tablets.[5]

What’s more, according to this opinion, Moshe made a public spectacle out of that breaking.

He created that spectacle by not breaking anything until he “approached the camp”[6] - where everyone was gathered – so that everyone should see what he was doing.[7]

Why did he want a spectacle?

Presumably so that people should see and draw lessons from that spectacle.

And one of those lessons may be that sins - like worshipping a golden calf – “break” Hashem’s tablets and make them inaccessible.

Hashem’s tablets were meant for a “chosen people”[8] who can absorb - and inspire others[9] with - those tablets’ holy words.

Sins destroy our “chosennness” and render us incapable of absorbing - and certainly of transmitting - holy words.

This explains why, right after that breaking, we were denuded of the “crowns”[10] that we received when we accepted the Torah.

“The nation … mourned and they didn’t wear the crowns that they had received at Sinai.”[11]

Those crowns may have been tefillin.[12] They may have been a divine luster.[13] Or they may have been actual crowns.[14]

Whatever they were, those crowns signified our receipt – and our ability to transmit - Hashem’s Torah.

Our sins broke the tablet’s and reversed that receipt - which is why our sins denuded us of the tablets and the crowns.

It’s a lesson that’s as relevant today as it was then.

It’s a lesson that sinning – in addition to destroying us – also destroys our ability to share Torah and goodness with others.

It happens with our children.

We are meant to imbue our children with the power of positive, loving and respectful speech.

We can only do that, though, if we aren’t sullied by negative, unloving and disrespectful speech ourselves.

It happens with our neighbors.

We and our neighbors are meant to inspire each other with uplifting davening and with positive communal involvement.

We can only do that, though, if our davening and our involvements are heart-warming.

And it happens in the workplace.

Our lives are meant to inspire non-Orthodox and non-Jewish coworkers.

We can only do that, though, if our lives are inspiring.

It isn’t just about us.

It’s also about everyone else.

Hamas knows that.

We should know that too.

Join the chevra of young guys every Thursday at Rabbi Weber’s home at 6 Grist Mill Court, Montebello. Shiur with Rabbi Weber at 9, Kumsitz with great food, great song and business and professional advice at 9:30.

Rabbi Weber is founder of Ohr Tzvi Montebello-Monsey. Please visit his website, ohrtzvi.org, to sign up for his weekly email message or for information on his live or zoom shiurim. Rabbi Weber will be mara d’asra at the Hudson Valley Resort for Pesach. For information, please email or call (845) 794-6000

[1] Shemos 32:19

[2] Rashbam, Chizkuni ad loc.

[3] Pirkei DeRebbi Eliezer 45

[4] Shemos 32:19

[5] Shabbos 87a, Shemos Rabba 43:1 and many others.

[6] loc. cit.

[7] HaEmek Davar 32:19

[8] Shemos 19:5

[9] Sfrono ad loc.

[10] Shemos 33:5

[11] Shemos 33:4

[12] Zohar 1:262

[13] Shemos Rabba 51:5

[14] Shabbos 88a


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