By Rabbi Yitzchok D. Frankel
Agudath Israel of the Five Towns
In advance of receiving the Torah, Bnei Yisrael declared “Na’aseh venishma” (Sh’mos 24:7). The idea of putting na’aseh before nishma is that we accept Hashem’s total rule over us. Whatever He might ask of us to do, we will carry out His will without any question, regardless whether we understand the reasoning behind it or not. Surely, Hashem wants us to understand Torah to the best of our ability. The mitzvos that fall under the category of mishpatim are more or less accessible to human understanding. There is even an obligation to understand them to the best of our abilities. Nevertheless, na’aseh venishma means that we do as Hashem wants us to, even if we fail to understand it.
When we strive to understand His mitzvos, it is because He has commanded us to do so. Even if we don’t understand them now, there is a chance we’ll understand them later.
“Said Rabbi Elazar: When Israel placed na’aseh before nishma, a Heavenly voice came out and said to them, ‘Who revealed to My children this secret that the ministering angels utilize?’ For it is written, ‘Bless Hashem, O His angels, mighty of strength, who do His word to hear His word.’ First it says, ‘who do,’ and then it says, ‘to hear.’” (Shabbos 88a)
Although na’aseh venishma seems to be based on the most basic and simple of concepts, the acceptance of Hashem’s absolute rule, nevertheless it is considered a Heavenly secret. Chazal tell us that there is something angelic about it.
Parashas Ki Sisa falls at the time of year when we read the arba parshiyos, the four extra Torah passages that we start to read right before Rosh Chodesh Adar and continue with up until Nissan. How are they connected to parashas Ki Sisa?
The connection of parashas Shekalim is easy: The beginning of parashas Ki Sisa is actually the passage we read for Shekalim.
The connection of parashas Zachor is also not so hard to see. The avodah zarah of the eigel parallels Amalek who is the antithesis of emunah in Hashem.
What about parashas Parah? Rashi tells us that one of the ideas behind the parah adumah is that it atones for the cheit ha’eigel:
“There is a Midrash Aggadah that I copied down from the teachings of Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan: ‘…Parah adumah. It may be compared to a handmaiden’s son who soiled the king’s palace. They said: Let his mother come and clean up the refuse. Similarly, let the cow (parah) come and atone for the calf (eigel).’” (Rashi, Bamidbar 19:2)
Parashas HaChodesh parallels the end of parashas Ki Sisa, where the Torah relates the laws of the shalosh regalim beginning with Pesach and the mitzvos of korban Pesach and issur chametz.
All in all, parashas Ki Sisa seems to have the greatest connection to parashas Parah. In most non-leap years, parashas Ki Sisa coincides with parashas Parah. What might be the basis for this connection?
This Midrash we quoted above sounds poetic, but what message is it really trying to convey? How does the parah adumah clean up the defilement created by the cheit ha’eigel? I believe that the answer is as follows:
The acceptance of Hashem’s total rule, which is embodied in na’aseh venishma, is actually the diametric opposite of the cheit ha’eigel. Indeed, the crowns that Klal Yisrael received in merit of na’aseh venishma were taken away from them because of the cheit ha’eigel.
The initial cheit ha’eigel represented a step back from na’aseh venishma. Instead of accepting Hashem’s word unquestioningly, they felt a need for some sort of physical manifestation. It was no longer enough just to know that such is Hashem’s will. They needed something they could see and touch and relate to on their own level. So they made golden images and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Sh’mos 32:4). Let us keep in mind that they left Egypt just a few months before and everyone knew exactly Who brought them out of Egypt. When they said, “These are your gods,” they meant that the golden images they made were to serve as a physical representation of Hashem.
They felt they needed to be more pragmatic, more down to earth. They had to understand what they were dealing with. If they couldn’t live on the lofty level of pure worship of Hashem, they had to bring Hashem down to their level of understanding.
How was this sin rectified? How was the filth cleaned up? By acceptance of the mitzvah of the parah adumah, about which is written, “This is the chok of the Torah.” It is the ultimate chok. It is the mitzvah that is farthest from our level of understanding. It is the mitzvah that the Satan and the nations of the world deride us about, to which we respond: “This is the chok of the Torah.” Hashem commanded us, and we accept His rule unquestioningly. It calls for extra emunah in Hashem and His Torah.
Therefore, parashas Parah is a return to the level of na’aseh venishma. It represents that we accept what Hashem says, regardless of whether we understand the reason for it and relate to it on our own level. If Hashem requires us to do something, we do it.
This idea is expressed by the Beis Halevi, who is explaining why the Torah emphasizes throughout the building of the Mishkan that it was done “as Hashem commanded Moshe.”
The Beis HaLevi (Sh’mos 31:13) explains:
“With this we may understand why parashas Pekudei states about every detail and action connected to building the Mishkan that it was ‘as Hashem commanded Moshe.’ These words are written in almost every verse in that parashah, and this is surely a matter of significance.
“The matter is as follows: The making of the Mishkan came to give Israel atonement for the making of the eigel. This is as it says in Midrash Rabbah parashah Vayakheil (48:6): ‘They sinned through nose rings, as it says, “Take off the golden nose rings.’ And they were reconciled with Hashem through nose rings, as it says [regarding the building of the Mishkan], “They brought bracelets and nose rings.”’(Sh’mos ch. 35)
“They sinned through the eigel primarily in that they sought to rely on their own wisdom, and performed on the basis of their own understanding an act that they were not commanded to do. And the making of the Mishkan comes to atone for this. That is why it says, ‘As Hashem commanded Moshe,’ about everything they did.
“Betzalel knew how to combine the letters by which heavens and earth were created. He knew the allusions and secrets involved with his work. Nevertheless, when he did the work the only intention was, ‘As Hashem commanded Moshe.’ They intended only to do Hashem’s command and will, rather than follow the dictates of their intellect. In this way, it gave Israel atonement for the making of the eigel.”
Betzalel’s understanding was so deep that he understood the inner meaning of all the components of the Mishkan. He had the ultimate chochmas halev. But when he actually built the Mishkan, he did it not on the basis of his own understanding but because Hashem commanded him to do so. This is na’aseh venishma! v
Rabbi Frankel can be reached at email@example.com. At local stores: Machat shel Yad Sh’mos.