Dvar Torah from Rabbi Saul I. Grife
"The Experiences that Change our Lives"
Parshat HaShavuah, the Torah portion this week is Ki Tissa, from Sefer Shemot, the Book of Exodus 30:11 - 34:35. "Ki Tissa" means "when you bear or take", refers to the census taken of the Israelite men and the corresponding tax that was levied on each one 20 years old and upward of a half-shekel. The money went to support the work of the ancient Tabernacle. The Torah commands that everyone had to contribute equally; "the rich could not donate more neither the poor contribute less". In this way, everyone felt an equal connection to the workings of the Tabernacle; no one could feel more or less important to the sacred work of the original house of worship.
In this sidra Moshe ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments from God. What actually transpired atop the mountain is known only to Moshe, but when he descended with the second set of luchot, or tablets (the set that would remain intact); the Torah informs us that "Moses' skin was radiant because God had spoken with him." Tradition tells us that this Moshe's face would shine the rest of his life due to the impression that Revelation left upon him. This drastic vicissitude in Moshe's countenance frightened the people so much that Moshe shrouded his face in a veil anytime he appeared in public from then on. The sculptor Michelangelo misunderstood the Latin (Vulgate) translation of the Bible and depicted Moshe with an actual horn in place of the "ray of light" that he now bore. Tragically, from this alteration in meaning, anti-Semites associated the devil's horns with the Jewish people.
Moshe's encounter with God atop Har Sinai radically altered his entire life forever. One commentary understands that Moshe's radiance was a reflection of God's radiance. We learn a great lesson from this - that others can greatly affect us, how we look, how we react and how we behave. What a gift we have when in the presence of loved ones and friends someone else can uplift our spirits and turn our sadness into joy! What a present it is when someone or something pierces through our despair and elates us! What a joy it is when another successfully transforms our despondency or pessimism into joy and optimism! It's been said...
Never underestimate the importance in your life of a person who always makes you smile!
In Parshat Ki Tissa, God made Moshe smile. Moshe in turn descended Mt. Sinai energized to lead the Israelites through tremendous challenges to the Promised Land. This week let us understand how much we can influence and affect each other. When we encounter others, even before we even speak, people can read so much about us by the way we appear and present ourselves. Ticht Naht Hanh remarked,
If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, and everyone will benefit from our peace.
As Shabbat begins, I wish you lots of joy, satisfaction, smiles and peace to illuminate our way, the lives of others and the state of the world. May you have people in your life who can make you smile... and may you possess the gift of bringing joy to others and making them smile too!
The Dalai Lama opined, A simple smile. That's the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to others.
Shabbat Shalom u'mevorach to all!