Nachal novea; makor chochma -
A flowing river; the source of wisdom (Mish. 18:4)

Parshas Ki Sissa 5756

(Exodus 30:11-34:35)

"Moses began to plead before G-d his L-rd [after the Jews had worshipped the Golden Calf.] He said, 0 G-d, why unleash Your wrath against  your  people who You brought out of Egypt with great power and a show of force?" (Exodus 32:11)

The Jews had committed the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf as they were encamped before G-d, at the foot of Mount Sinai. They had just received the Torah. The entire nation had witnessed, just prior to their sin, an unprecedented revelation of G-d and his might. G-d had opened up the heavens at the giving of the Torah, and had shown the Jews all of its seven levels. They had all reached the level of prophecy and heard G-d's voice directly. They had seen the great miracles in Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, the manna, Miriam's well, the clouds of Glory, and the pillar of fire. Despite all of these great things they had witnessed, the Jews still built a Golden Calf and worshipped it. This sin was the greatest sin of all time. The Torah describes this event mainly to teach every sinner, no matter how heinous the crime, that there is hope, even for the worst of sinners.

After the Jews had the great audacity to sin in such a manner,  just after the events that we have described above had transpired, how could there ever be hope to make amends? The Talmud compares their sin to a bride who had committed adultery while under the marriage canopy. Despite the great magnitude of their sin, Moses said to G-d, "Why are You upset with the Jews?  The Jews didn't do any thing so terrible." How could Moshe even attempt to talk to G-d in this fashion?   Moshe knew full well that no one could ever hope to trick G-d by stating an untruth. How could Moshe even attempt to minimize their offense and claim that this terrible sin was insignificant and should be overlooked?

Rabbi Nachman taught: Know! [Every time Rabbi Nachman used the term "know!"" this refers to the fact that he learned this teaching from heaven when he visited there]  a person must judge everyone favorably. Even in the case of a complete sinner, one must search until one finds some point of good within that person. For the verse says: "With a little bit [of good], and the wicked will be no more" (Psalms 37:10). This verse refers to finding and exclusively focusing on the "little bit" of good which is found within everyone, including a complete sinner.  By judging even a complete sinner favorably, one fulfills the end of this verse: "And the wicked will be no more.” Once you judge a sinner favorably you actually elevate the sinner to the side of holiness. This can help this person return to G-d. How is it possible that this sinner never once fulfilled a mitzvah or did something good throughout his entire life? Once a person does even one good deed, he becomes part of and attached to G-d, the source of all good.

Every person can sense how another person feels toward him. A person's feelings toward another are broadcast loud and clear through verbal and non-verbal communication, intimations, body language, and gestures. Therefore, if one projects and transmits positive feelings toward another, the warmth and good attitude that one projects can be felt and can literally uplift the other person. Once a person feels uplifted and is imbued with a sense of self-worth and joy, this happy attitude could motivate a person to seek out G-d and return to Him.  If one, however, projects negative feelings toward another, this could literally kill the other person and cause him to fall completely.

Just as one must judge others favorably, so must one judge oneself favorably. Constantly focusing on one's faults, could cause a  person to fall into a deep depression and give up all hope. Therefore, one should never condemn oneself for one's failures. One should only focus on one's sins and faults briefly. One should set aside a segment of time daily to acknowledge one's sins and failures; for the sake of correcting them in a Positive way and to do repentance. Once this is accomplished, for the remainder of the day it is forbidden to focus on one's sins and faults, for one must always try to be happy. One must be in a state of happiness in order to be connected to G- d. The root and cause of all sin is unhappiness, for if a person was truly happy with his situation, why would he need to enjoy things that G-d has determined to be harmful to one's spiritual growth and harmful to one's relationship with G-d. Therefore, one must stay very far away from anything that can cause one to become unhappy. (Lekutai Moharan I:282)

Now we can understand how Moshe was able to say to G-d that the sin of the Golden Calf was an insignificant act and that it should be completely forgotten and overlooked. Moses was able to find the good points in every Jew, even in the worst of them. The little bit of good that Moses was able to find within the Jewish Nation, even after the Jews had fallen into idol worship, Moses was still able to totally nullify and negate all of the bad that they had done, for a little light nullifies a lot of darkness. If Moses was able to find the good in people who had committed the grave sin of the Golden Calf, we ourselves should certainty be able to find good in our fellow man, who is certainly guilty of much lesser sins than this.

Moses was able to detect the slightest spark of good, even in the worst sinner, for the essence of Moses himself was totally good. The verse describes Moses as follows: "When she [Yocheved] saw him [Moses] that he was (totally] good" (Exodus 2:2).  Since Moses possessed every conceivable form of goodness within himself, he was therefore able to detect and recognize the very good that he himself was familiar with, that he himself possessed, in others.  If someone is unable to detect the good in others, it is quite possible that the person himself is deficient in that particular good trait and is therefore unable to recognize it in another person.

As soon as Moshe pointed out to G-d all of the good points that was still to be found in the Jews, G-d's response was as follows: "G-d refrained from doing the evil that He planned for His people" (Exodus 32:14). Once Moses had brought about a reconciliation between G-d and the Jewish People, it was necessary for the Jews to build the Tabernacle. The Jews themselves became very broken and distraught when they realized what they had done. Therefore, it became necessary to restore their broken morale and to rebuild their relationship with G-d. As we mentioned above, one is unable to come close to G-d or to seek Him out if one's spirit is broken. Therefore, G-d commanded that the Jews build the Tabernacle, to restore their shattered spirits.  The essence and foundation of the Tabernacle consisted of all the good points found within each Jew.  Every Jew contributed material to the construction of the Tabernacle.  It was the good found within each person's heart that motivated him to contribute to the Tabernacle's construction.  As the verse says: "Every man and woman, whose [good points of their] heart made them willing to bring [material for the Tabernacle's construction) for all manner of work” (Exodus 35:29).

The Tabernacle was constructed and was a physical representation of all the good that was found within each heart of each Jew. The command by G-d to build the Tabernacle forced each Jew to reach into his heart and find the good that was lying dormant within. This motivated each Jew to contribute to the Tabernacle's construction. By commanding that the Tabernacle be built, G-d was forcing each Jew to find the good within himself. This restored their broken morale and this motivated each Jew to seek and return to G-d. The verse says: I [the Jewish People] am black [and tainted with sin], yet beautiful (because of my good points still found within me]" (Song of Songs 1:5). Our Sages say that this verse refers to the following: "I am black with the sin of the Golden Calf, yet I am beautiful because of my constructing of the Tabernacle." In other words, no matter how black and tainted a sinner might become due his great and many sins, he is still beautiful, because of the good that is still found within him.

It was right after the sin of the Golden Calf, that G-d revealed to Moses His 13 Attributes of Mercy. These 13 Attributes of Mercy contain all of the aspects of G-d's infinite mercy that He has on every creature on earth.  By activating these attributes of mercy, one can still maintain one's connection with G-d, despite the enormity of one's sins. The Jews were only able to rebound from the sin of the Golden Calf as a result of finding their good points. This merited the Jews to be taught these 13 aspects of G-d's mercy.  One phrase of the formula says: "He (G-d] remembers the deeds of love for thousands, forgiving sin rebellion and error" (Exodus 34:7). This verse could be understood in the context of our lesson: How does G-d erase a person's sins? G-d knows that it is so difficult to do good in such a world like ours, which is saturated with such strong lures that distract a person from performing G-d's will.  Because of this situation, G-d "remembers" to place great and the utmost value on the good, found within each person's heart. Therefore, a little bit of good pushes away and eliminates the many sins that the person had committed, and that person is then judged favorably. That is why G-d is able to forgive sin, rebellion, and error, when a person repents.

No good deed can ever erase a sin.  One must actually do repentance to erase one's sins. When we say that a little bit of good pushes away a lot of evil, we refer to G-d's evaluation of how to deal with the one who has attempted to return to G-d. G-d will not reject his sincere repentance and the person will be judged favorably, and his repentance will be accepted. He will then merit G-d's assistance in bringing him closer to G-d.

This is why we are commanded to sanctify the new moon through the sighting of two witnesses. At the time when the new moon was expected to appear, all of Israel would search and be on the lookout for it. The new moon was very difficult to detect. For it appeared as a sliver of light in the night sky and it only appeared for a brief moment. When the new moon was sighted and the testimony of the witnesses who sighted, a new month would be proclaimed by the Rabbinical Court. The Sages of the Rabbinical Court would proclaim the now month and say: "Mekudash, Mekudash (sanctified, sanctified)." This law can be applied in the context of our lesson. The Sages tell us that the moon had sinned at the time of creation by demanding to be the dominant light, to be greater than the sun. G-d punished the moon for its lust for power and diminished its size. Therefore, all of Israel went out every month to find the band of light, so that the new moon could be sanctified. This band of light alludes to finding the good points in all people including the sinners. Once the good point is found, the moon/sinner is proclaimed "Mekudash", sanctified. (Lekutai Halachot: Orach Chiam: Hilchot Haskamas Haboker 1:1-4)

The Talmud tells us that no barrier can stand in the way of repentance. Nevuzaradian, the commanding general of the Babylonian Army, was responsible for destroying the first Temple in Jerusalem. Not only did he destroy G-d's Temple, but he personally killed all the Sages of the great and small Sanhedrin. He also slew thousands of priests, men, women, and children, and brought the surviving Jews into exile. He also inflicted unspeakable suffering upon the Jews during the several year siege of Jerusalem. The starvation that his siege caused to come upon the city, brought women to eat the flesh of their own children. He had shattered the lives of thousands with unbelievable suffering. Anyone who would look at what this man had done, would say that there is no hope for him.  However, his eyes were opened, and he realized the enormity of the sin that he had committed. The Talmud tells us that he ran away and abandoned his high position and became a convert to Judaism and did complete repentance. His repentance was accepted.

We find that one of the commandments in the Torah is to totally wipe out the nation of Amalek.  The reason for this command is that the nature of this nation is to be extremely evil. The core of their spiritual root is strongly entrenched in the powerful and lowest level of evil that exists. Because of this, Amalek is dedicated to fighting all spirituality in this world. They have dedicated themselves to wiping out the Jews and all knowledge of G-d in this world. Despite all of these things, we find that one of the students of the great Talmudic Sage Rav, Rav Shmuel bar Shelas, was a descendant of Haman, from the infamous nation of Amalek. It was Haman who almost succeeded in wiping out the entire Jewish Nation, whose story is recorded in the book of Esther. We see from this that even a person who came from such a wicked man was able to purify himself and come close to G-d. Therefore, we can derive from this that the door of repentance is always open. Anyone at anytime can come close to G-d.

One of the verses contained in the 13 attributes of mercy says about G-d that He is a "Rav Chesed", abundant in kindness. This means that no matter how great a person's sins are, G-d's capacity of mercy to forgive is even greater than any conceivable sin that anyone could ever commit. This is one of the tenets of our faith in G-d. If a person doesn't believe that G-d is merciful and will accept the repentance for any sin, then this person does not believe in G-d. He is limiting the infinite powers of G-d.  Our sages tell us that each sinner will be punished in the hereafter. Half of the punishment will consist of being burnt by fire. This fire comes from the heat of passion that the sinner himself created from his passion when he sinned. The other half of the punishment will consist of being punished with ice. This ice comes from the cold shoulder that the sinner showed to G-d. After a person has sinned, he is required to do repentance. G-d understands human weakness. It is very difficult to stand up to temptation. However, what gets G-d most upset is that a person gives G-d the cold shoulder and doesn't try to seek G-d out and do repentance after committing a sin. This is where the cold ice is taken from, that is used to punish the sinner for not seeking G-d out.

Therefore, Rabbi Nachman recommends that a person should review all of the days events, either at chatzos lila or just before he goes to sleep. He should tell G-d in his own way and language, just as one would talk to a close friend, about all the events of the day. He should tell G-d about all the things he had done during the day and especially the things he had done wrong. He should give G-d his commitment to try to improve and say to G-d that he feels sorry for what he has done wrong. This practice will rectify any wrong that one has done. The Talmud tells us that when there is judgment an earth there is no need for a judgment in Heaven. No one can not be tried twice for the same crime. Therefore, if one Judges himself on earth, heaven can not judge him in the heavenly courts. (Based on the lectures of Rabbi Rosenfeld zal, a departed leading American Breslov Rabbi of the previous generation)

Even though one will be forgiven if one does repentance, one still has to repair the damage that one has caused through sinning. The Talmud tells us that for certain types of sins one is required to experience great suffering to repair the damage. The Talmud tells us that even though G-d forgave the Jews of their sin of worshipping the Golden Calf, He told Moses that whenever the Jews would be punished for their sins in the future, part of their punishment would include the punishment for this sin as well. The holy Rebbi Elimelech of Luzinkst, who lived at the end of the seventeen hundreds, wrote in his book, Noam Elimelech, that the punishment for the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf would be complete and finished in the year 1944.

Once there was a massive fire in Breslov, which burnt down much of the town. After the fire ended, Rav Nosson, Rabbi Nachman's chief disciple, and a few others went to see the damage that the fire had caused. They saw a man whose house was totally destroyed by the fire, crying bitterly and sifting through the ashes of his destroyed home. The man was looking to see if he could find any pieces of wood or metal that he could salvage to rebuild his home. He was collecting them one by one. Rav Nosson said to his companions, "Did you see!!!? Even though his house was burned down he hasn't given up hope of rebuilding it again. He is collecting everything he will need to rebuild his house. The same is true on the spiritual level. The evil one battles with us to the point where he almost completely burns us up with passion and we fall into sin. But we must never give up hope: we must sift through the destruction and pick up a few good points and collect them together from amidst the numbers of our sins. This is the way to return to G-d.

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