Ki Tisa 5782 – The Human Dichotomy

By: Larry Tobin

In Parshat Ki Tisa the Jewish nation is again faced with a test of faith. Moses leaves to receive the Ten Commandments. Rather than prepare themselves spiritually to await this sacred moment, some instead use their time to engage in another activity: the construction of a golden calf. Things get worse when it appears that Moses has not returned within the expected forty-day period. Some of the people become rebellious and immoral. In reality, some had miscounted the days by one with Moses returning on time carrying two tablets upon which were inscribed the Ten Commandments. A furious Moses flung the tablets to the ground, destroying them. G-d’s anger was kindled. The golden calf along with the rebellious throng were swallowed up by the earth. Only through the interceding of Moses was the remainder of the Jewish people spared. Moses then ascended the mountain again where a second set of tablets were inscribed.

The parsha goes on to describe the half shekel participation by all in the building of the Mishkan. By each person giving the same amount, everyone could feel equally invested in the undertaking. Regarding collection of items, jewels, gold, silver, etc. for forming of the accessories within the Mishkan, people were allowed to give as they saw fit. The response was overwhelming with more being donated than was needed.

What could account for the diametrically opposed responses of the Jewish people in regard to Moses ascent to receive the Ten Commandments and the building and stocking of the Mishkan? Perhaps the Jewish people by nature are schizophrenic. This might account for the irregular behavior of the Jewish people that often is witnessed during the journey through the wilderness. But this wouldn’t explain the extreme generosity displayed in regard to the Mishkan.

The Jewish people, after all, are human. And don’t we all have two sides to us: good and evil? These two sides are referred to as the Yetzer Tov and the Yetzer Rah: the good inclination and the bad inclination. Sometimes one Yetzer takes control over the other one. The golden calf was tempting to some who had witnessed idolatry in Egypt and who had sunk to the 49th level of immorality out of 50 (50 being lowest) in Egypt. Some commentaries argue that it is because the Jews of Egypt had sunk to such a low spiritual level, that G-d chose then to deliver them from bondage before they sunk to the unsavable 50th level.

Fortunately, the Yetzer Tov prevailed with respect to the Mishkan. The battle between Yetzer Tov and Yetzer Rah, i.e., The human dichotomy, would resurface over and over again throughout the journey of the Jewish people as they sought the promised land and their recognition as the B’nai Yisroel. And the human dichotomy continues to this day.

What can we take away from this Parsha? Recognize the internal battle between good and evil that we all must face. When we are tempted to door not to do something, there is a good chance that the Yetzer Rah is trying to prevail. Should I give to charity? Yetzer Rah. To which charity should I give? Yetzer Tov. How much should I give? Let your Yetzer Tov prevail. Hey, we’re all human. Sometimes the Yetzer Rah is going to take charge when that piece of cake looks too good to resist. But when it comes to the more significant things in life, fight the good fight, put on your combat boots, and kick that Yetzer Rah to the curb.

Good Shabbos


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