Thursday, March 12, 2009

Parshat Ki Tisa- Points for good Intentions??

It is brought down from the Shem Mi Shmeul in Rabbie Hershel Reichman's shiur at Na'aleh the question of whether there were good intentions behind the sin of the golden calf and whether noble intentions are looked upon favorably by Hashem.

In the case of the golden calf only .5 % of the Jews who participated died after drinking the ashes of the calf that were supposed to weed out who were true idol worshipers. What about the rest? The commentaries say that for the majority they did not decide to abandon the 10 commandments and the Torah and make idols. One reason addressed is that perhaps they were worried that Moshe had died and that they might be alone in the desert. They were used to relying on a leader, the revelation at Mt Sinai was not deeply ingrained yet. They thought the miracles in the dessert were related to Moshe. Ramban brings down that the golden calf was an inspiration connected to the visions of G-d's throne that they had experienced during the revelation of the Torah. The throne of G-d had a calf representative of a spiritual force they thought they could access through divination and this would get them through the desert. The consensus seems to be that they were never rejecting Hashem. Nevertheless it was still idol worship and we are still paying for the spiritual ramifications of their act today.

The Shem Mi Shmuel brings down that at times certain sins may have have a good motive but a very negative action that is clearly a violation of Torah law. The question is what is the Torah attitude toward good intentions? Do they hold any weight. He says that Hashem does give credit, if the intention was good. The source he brings down is during Korach's rebellion against Moshe and Aaron when Korach persuaded 250 of the greatest Torah scholars to join him. Moshe says Hashem will decide who is the true Cohen - Aaron or one of the 250 men. The test being that they would all put fire in a pan with incense and see who would get the heavenly fire from G-d that comes down to accept the sacrifice. Fire came down to burn up the sacrifice of Aaron and then killed all the 250 men. Hashem says to take the pans that were used in the sacrifice and use them as a cover for the holy altar to remind people of the sin. The question is how could the vessels used by sinners for their sin now be sanctified and become part of the holy altar. The Torah says 'take them because they are holy'.

The answer is that these 250 men meant well. They all had this passion and desire to become
closer to Hashem, to become a high priest in fact. Their goal was in fact noble. Were their actions right? Definitely not. They were not following the dictates of Hashem as set out by
Hashem and Moshe. They were obviously reprimanded to the full degree because they died, but he says that their intentions remained good. Therefore the vessels were sanctified. Therefore the Shem Mi Shmuel says that if a person's intention is good Hashem will purify it from the sin and have it for the credit of that person.

This can be applied to our interactions. What about our own Jews who spend years in Indian Ashrams, our "Buddhist Jews", or any other Jews following a spiritual philosophy which they hope will bring them connection to a higher power. I agree that they should be looked upon with compassion and even admiration for their desire for holiness. We should emulate Hashems ways in trying to see their noble intention while simultaneously encouraging them to find what they seek in the Torah.

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