Don’t Wait For Miracles
by Maynard Breslow
This week’s parsha – Ki Tisa – is one of the most famous, if not infamous, parshas in the entire Torah. It deals with the unfortunate story of how Am Yisrael forced Aaron’s hand, so to speak, in helping them make the golden calf. In modern times, we have the tendency to look at the actions of the generation of the desert in not only disbelief but outright judgmentalism. How could it be that this generation that had just been given the Torah at mount Sinai and experienced the amazing miracles that led to their exodus from Egypt succumb to such a misguided deed as building an idol for worship? Perhaps by investigating what led up to that catastrophe can we not only shed some light on those actions, but also apply it to our own lives here and now.
As we know, every single letter and every single pasuk is perfectly placed; there is nothing superfluous. According to the targum, “The people saw that Moses had delayed in descending the mountain, and the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Rise up, make for us gods that will go before us for this man Moshe who brought us up from the land of Egypt – we do not know what became of him.’” (Shemot 32:1). That being said, what was the pasuk that exactly preceded this worry and subsequent demand for a replacement? The preceding pasuk states “When He finished speaking to him on Mount SInai, He gave Moshe the two Tablets of Testimony, stone tablets inscribed b’etzba Elokim (by the finger of God).” (Shemot 31:18). The concept of the finger of God in itself is a puzzling choice of words. We can often derive the meaning of a term by searching for the same term earlier in the Torah that can, in turn, expound on the laters’ meaning. In fact, there is another place where the almost exact same phrase is used earlier in the Torah. In parsha Va’eira, the plagues start and the whole nation of Egypt is forced to acknowledge the revelation of The Creator by experiencing the vast miracles that take place. Still, Pharoah’s heart is not dismayed, greatly due to the fact that his own sorcerers are able to replicate the miracles themselves. That is until the Third Plague which consists of lice. Rashi states that sorcery does not hold power over anything smaller than a grain of barley (Shemot 8:14). This means that the sorcerers could not replicate this plague and were demurred to admit that perhaps there was Something Bigger at play as “The sorcerers said to Pharoah, ‘eztba Elokim hi (It is a finger of God)!’” (Shemot 8:15). We would once again expect for Pharoah to at least acknowledge the proof and relent. We see, however, that “Pharoah’s heart was strong and he did not heed them, as Hashem has spoken.” (ibid). So what’s the parallel here? The parallel is that there was a great revelation of miracles and yet those experiencing the miracles quickly forgot and wrote off the experience.
In our own lives we are often the recipients of great miracles. How many times have we prayed for something and seen our prayers come to life? Is the result that we never forget Hashem and go about our lives living a life of complete emunah the next time we are faced with a “problem”? Unfortunately, the case is often that we soon forget and instead focus on the next problem. There is a story brought down in the Garden of Gratitude by Rav Shalom Arush about a man who is brought up to heaven and shown around. An angel takes him to a chamber with many rooms and the man sees a room where there are angels running around in an almost panic. When the man asked why they are working so hard, the angel answers that this is the room where angels are bringing prayers to their proper place. The man then sees a second room where another set of angels are once again running around. When the man inquires about this room, the angel says this is the room where the prayers are being granted. Finally, the man sees a room where the angels are mostly sitting around with a few going about business. The man asked why there were so few angels working in this room. The angel answered that this is the room where the prayers of gratitude are being brought to Hashem after the intial prayers were granted. It is human nature to seek salvation when we are in trouble. It is also, unfortunately, human nature to then look at the next trouble, without necessarily thanking Hashem for the millions of salvations and prayers He has already granted.
The problem is that people have a short memory and are mostly unimpressed by miracles. We can write them off to chance or nature without realizing they are in deed our prayers being answered. So too with the golden calf. We forgot about the miracles and chose to focus on the problem of believing there was no longer a leader of the Jewish People. It appears that Hashem does not like to openly break nature. It seems as if He would rather give us the opportunity to do the work through prayer and histadlut for this very reason. It is our job to pray, do our part and especially thank Hashem for the countless miracles He does for us at every single moment of every single breathe. We shouldn’t need miracles to believe in Hashem and if we do see those miracles we should surely be proficient in our gratitude instead of forgetting or looking for another thing we need help with.
Hashem should grant us the ability to not only pray and see our prayers answered, but also give us the words and emotion to thank with great fervor. With that, our gratitude should wake up the many brothers and sisters in the world who are not yet aware of the miracles occurring in their lives through the loving Hand of The Creator. By doing so, we should all experience the complete redemption through Shalom of the entire World and experience the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Third Temple soon and in our days. Amen.
Shabbat Shalom and thank you for reading.