Parshat Ki Tisa
By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
Our Parsha teaches that the giving of the half shekel by each man in Israel protects the masses from plague due to a census conducted upon them. This lesson is echoed at the end of the book of Samuel where King David conducts a census, which leads to a plague upon the People. The correlation between census and plague can be explained by our Sages’ teaching that ‘blessing rests only on something hidden from the eye’. When a census is conducted the multitudes of the People become ‘revealed’ and ‘specified’ by a number, causing the blessing that was with them to leave them, causing them to be susceptible to plague, God forbid.. Therefore, the Torah commands us not to count the people directly but rather to take a half-shekel coin from each person which, in the collective, indicates the number of people involved. That said, the fact that the Torah ties this ‘coin-enumeration’ process to a debut for the Holy Temple, ‘to HaShem’, adds another facet in the understanding how God wishes to protect Israel from plague. Indeed, we find that the method David was commanded to take in ceasing the plague that erupted at his time due to his census of the people was none other than collecting monies from Israel and using this money to buy the Temple Mount for the sake of the Holy Temple. More deeply, we can explain that ‘specification’, as in the census above, is referred to in the Torah by the term ‘nakva’ as in the dialogue between Yakov and Laban. Of course, ‘nakva’ resembles (according to the Sages) the word ‘nekeva’ – the feminine. As we have explained in the past, Israel and the Temple/Holy Land have a relationship like husband and wife. Therefore, when Israel give monies towards the Temple and the Holy Land, these monies ‘protect’ Israel from the dangers of ‘census-specification’, measure for measure, just as a wife ‘protects’ her husband from danger (as a wife is considered by our Sages (Yevamot 62b) to have the virtue of being a ‘wall of protection’, so-to-speak, to her husband). In a parallel nature our Sages describe that the half shekels donated towards the Temple acted as “cure before the blow.” i.e saving Israel from the plot of Haman which involved monies allotted for the destruction of Israel given to Achashverosh.
In a similar way, the monies allotted for the purchase of Maarat Hamachpela acts as a “cure before the blow,” i.e saving Israel from the claims of the nations that Israel “stole” the Land of Israel. We have explained in the past how money, kesef, is rooted to the word for yearning, kisufin. Based on this we also see how the yearning of our Patriarchs that their offspring settle in the Holy Land and Hashem’s oath to them thereof acted as a “cure before the blow” in context of the Sin of the Calf in this parsha. Moshe Rabeinu pleads before Hashem to save Israel due to the oath He made with the Patriarchs to greaten their offspring and make them inherit the Land. Of course, this oath is clearly evoked in Hebron, the founding settlement of Israel in the Holy Land, home of the Patriarchs, the city which acts as a “cure before the blow,” the cure and the catalyst of redemption for Israel.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #303
The plague of diphtheria among children was rampant in Jerusalem and the hills of Hebron. Doctors, among them the leading doctor Moshe Walach, went from patient to patient scrambling to save the children, Shaarei Tzedek Hospital was so packed that the rabbis were forced to allow the sick to be taken into the British Scottish Hospital, a matter that was before strictly forbidden due to the fear of missionary influence. In the synagogues many cried out in prayer daily and efforts were made for repentance from sins. The kabbalists prayed intensely and wetted the floors of the bet midrash with their tears, till they received a revelation from Heaven: “the children are in trouble, only the fathers can help.” Since the fathers of the sick children had already made great efforts to nullify the evil decree, it was agreed that the “fathers” referred to were none other than the Patriarchs of Hebron. Therefore, Shimon Hoizman of Hebron made a valiant offer to Al-Arafi, an Arab who had owed him some hundreds of Napoleons of gold: He was willing to forfeit the loan in favor of allowing him and a number of Jews to enter Maarat Hamachpela in order to pray there, a matter that was strictly forbidden by the Arab officials. Al-Arafi agreed to let two Jews enter on the eve of Yom Yippur by inviting the Arab officials on that day to his vineyard and drink his wine… That night Al-Arafi took S. Hoizman and Rabbi Mada, a tzadik who had come from Hungary to Hebron, into Maarat HaMachpela. Before they entered Rabbi Mada uttered, while trembling, to S. Hoizman: “Honor your father and mother. With awe and trembling we shall approach the tombs of our fathers… “(according to halacha) one must honor his parents both during their life and after death…”” The two Jews entered Maarat Hamachpela, where Jews had not been allowed for many generations. There, they recited tehilim and prayed intensely throughout the night for the plague to be ceased and for the redemption of Israel. At one point they heard a great noise emerging from the depths of the Maara, and they trembled in awe. The Jews prayed till dawn, when they were ushered to leave. Soon after, the plague ceased. The “secret,” that Jews had entered Maarat Hamchpela, was soon known also among the Arabs, but they could not tell whose “fault” it was…”
Sefer Hebron pp. 401-404
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