The Consequences of Decisions: Lessons from the Parsha for Our Time

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by R. Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Parshat Ki Tisa

In recent times, with the growing global hatred of Jews, targeting them has become common. Antisemitism has advanced to a point where it seems to be taking over a significant part of free society. Today, it seems popular to be against Jews.

Jews experiencing this have no right to complain. Especially when the IDF is still fighting in Gaza against the enemy. Because when Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, says, “It is important to recognize that Hamas attacks did not occur in a vacuum,” it is understood that when a Jew is murdered, raped, or abducted – and  there is a “background” in which, in his opinion, it’s acceptable to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The United States, which is Israel’s great friend, is causing difficulties for Israel and is trying to advance the establishment of a Palestinian state as a response to acts of hostility  barbarity  and brutality against  Israel such as the massacre  at Simchat Torah.

Antisemitism around the world forces Jews to wonder where their place is. Especially in small communities, they will have to decide if their community has a future amidst a sea of ​​hatred around them.

Communities outside of Israel will have to decide about their future because at this stage they are at a crossroads. And every decision about where to live in the world will impact them for generations.

The leaders of the State of Israel who are fighting wars in the north and south, and whose hands are tied by friendly countries, need to make significant decisions that will affect future generations.

The message from Parshat Ki Tisa is that decisions must be good and thoughtful because their consequences affect not only the present but also the future.


Aaron tried to collaborate with the people in the construction of the calf. He had good intentions; he was in a situation where there was no choice, and instead of fighting against the desire to build this golden calf, he tried to collaborate in  an attempt to minimize damage. When faced with a situation of having no choice, in choosing between two bad options, what is preferable – to do nothing or to try to minimize damage? And he tried to choose the lesser of two evils. In contrast, Hur, his brother-in-law, decided differently, opposed and fought against the crowd and was killed.

We cannot judge Aaron’s decision, but he failed to prevent the sin of the calf from which we suffer for all generations.

On the other hand, when Moshe came down from the mountain and saw the people dancing around the golden calf, he made a drastic and opposite decision. Moshe broke the Luchot, the tablets of the covenant, (Shemos 32:19-20)

וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר קָרַב אֶל הַמַּחֲנֶה וַיַּרְא אֶת הָעֵגֶל וּמְחֹלֹת וַיִּחַר אַף משֶׁה וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ מִיָּדָו אֶת הַלֻּחֹת וַיְשַׁבֵּר אֹתָם תַּחַת הָהָר (שמות ל”ב, י”ט)

and God said, ‘You have acted properly in breaking them.’ Moshe did not receive an order to break the Luchot, but he chose to break them when he saw the people dancing around the calf.

במדרש על הכתוב “וְכָתַבְתִּי עַל הַלֻּחֹת אֶת הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר הָיוּ עַל הַלֻּחֹת הָרִאשֹׁנִים אֲשֶׁר שִׁבַּרְתָּ” (שמות לד, א) שואלים מניין לנו שהסכים הקדוש ברוך הוא לשבירת הלוחות בידי משה, כלומר איך אנו יודעים שהדבר היה מקובל עליו. והתשובה: דכתיב :’אשר שברת’, ואמר ריש לקיש: יישר כוחך ששברת (בבלי שבת פז ע”א)

There is another decision in our Parsha, when Moshe calls out, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!” (שמות לב, כו) מי לה’ אלי. Only the tribe of Levi comes to meet him and joins him against all the people. this is a difficult decision for all participants. It is told that Rabbi Shimon Schwab, who lived in Germany, traveled to study Torah at the Mir Yeshiva in Lithuania. He studied there diligently until he reached the age of marriage, and then his parents called him back home to start a family. On his way back, he decided to stop in Radin to visit the Chafetz Chaim .

The Chafetz Chaim invited him to stay with him for Shabbat. After Shabbat, the Chafetz Chaim turned to him and said, ‘Are you a Kohen?’ Rabbi Shimon answered, ‘No.’ The Chafetz Chaim said, ‘I am a Kohen.’ Rabbi Shimon wondered what the Chafetz Chaim meant. The Chafetz Chaim continued, ‘Do you know why you are not a Kohen?’ Rabbi Shimon replied, ‘Because my father is not a Kohen.’ The Chafetz Chaim responded, ‘My father was a Kohen.’ Rabbi Shimon was intrigued, and the Chafetz Chaim further explained, ‘My grandfather was also a Kohen, tracing back to Aaron HaKohen. Do you know why Aaron HaKohen, his sons, and among them my grandfather merited to be Kohanim? Because when Moshe Rabbeinu called out, ‘Whoever is for the Lord, come to me,’ they ran to Moshe, unlike your grandfather’s grandfather who did not run to his side.’ The Chafetz Chaim then concluded, ‘I told you all this so that you know that now as you are going out into life outside the yeshiva, where there are struggles akin to the golden calf, you will have to make choices. Remember, the choices you make can affect generations to come, so choose well.'”

Each of us has moments in life when Heaven calls him with the call of “Whoever is for the Lord,” and at those moments, a person can merit himself and the generations that follow him. All we have  to do is listen to those moments and stick to the good path and merit eternal life.

Today, the Jewish people are hearing the call of “Whoever is for the Lord,” a call to make correct decisions regarding the future of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel and abroad. In Israel, we keenly feel the results of past decisions made recklessly.

Decisions made by communities outside of Israel and by the government of Israel will have implications for generations to come. Let us choose the path of “Whoever is for the Lord,” a path that will preserve the people of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the land of Israel for generations to come.

About Eliezer Simcha Weisz

Rabbi Eliezer Simcha Weisz is a member of The Chief Rabbinate Council of Israel

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