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Rabbi Yossi's Blog

Welcome to Rabbi Yossi's Blog; where you can expect to find thoughts on current events, Torah learning and Jewish spirituality. And of course, some good Jewish humor.

Elevated by Sin


You could argue that (spiritually, at least) it was the lowest point in Jewish history, especially considering from where they had come. Just weeks after the most significant event in history, the revelation at Mount Sinai; when G-d Almighty alone had communicated to the Jewish people the instructions of belief in one G-d and not to worship false deities, the Jewish people sinned.

And it wasn’t a “small” sin either, it was the mother of all sins - idol worship. They built the infamous Golden Calf and set about worshiping it. To make matters worse, they engaged in murder and all manner of illicit relations to boot.

The effects of this sin were devastating; Moses smashed the tablets that he had just received from G-d, the perpetrators of this public rebellion were put to death and history was changed forever.

In sharing the details of this low point in Jewish history one would expect that our Torah portion, which shares the story, would be named with a negative descriptor, one which gives us an indication as to the negative nature of the narrative.

However, not only does the name not provide any clue as to the damming story within, it seems to imply the exact opposite. The name of this week’s Torah portion, where the details of the Golden Calf rebellion are shared is, Ki Tisa - “when you raise up”.

If there were ever a misnamed portion, this has got to be it! What is this about?

In fact, as we read on it becomes even more mystifying. The Torah relates how Moses intercedes on behalf of the people and lobbies G-d incessantly for forgiveness. Finally forgiveness is obtained and G-d even agrees to share with Moses the “13 Attributes of Mercy”; G-d’s formula of achieving return, should future mistakes happen.

One section of which reads as follows: G-d “Forgives premeditated misdeeds, rebellious misdeeds and unintentional misdeeds”. The Hebrew word used here to mean “forgive” is “Nosei” which translates literally as “raise up”.

There seems to be a pattern here. Sin, while rebellious and distancing from G-d, has an element of elevation programmed into it.

The Chassidic masters explain that while sin is a negative action, it’s motivation and underlying power may well be used for positive. The act is wrong and needs to be refrained from and renounced but the desire can be channeled for good.

While the sin itself is bad, it’s source can still bring an elevation.

People think that to live according to Torah guidance means changing who they are, somehow fundamentally shifting their personality and personal traits. The truth is, it’s a matter of elevation; we need to surround ourselves with the positive and uplifting messages which will transfer into our choices.

And if we do make a mistake? It can still be a source of elevation, as we learn from our mistakes to craft a brighter future.

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