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Chumash-Shmot   Bamidbar Rabbah


(5738) Rashi (Ex.33:1): "You and the people" - The difference between the Erev Rav (mixed multitude) and the rest of Bnei Yisroel in the Sin of the Calf.

Specifics in the greatness of the Avodah of Baalei Teshuva over that of Tzaddikim.

Explanation of the saying of the Sages (Bamidbar Rab. 23:9) in the story of Eliyahu on Mount Carmel (Haftorah of our Parsha) concerning the bull that was offered "in the name of the Baal" that "just as the name of G-d is sanctified through the hand that is with Me, so too it is sanctified through your hand"

Here he did not say: "and your people."  


They sacrificed ascent-offerings and brought peace-offerings: How is it that the people who witnessed G-d's miracles in Egypt and at the Sea of Reeds, experienced His revelation at Mount Sinai, and had been restored to the sublime spiritual status of Adam and Eve before the primordial sin, could commit such a blatant transgression so soon afterward?

True, a close reading of the narrative reveals that it was a gradual series of well-intentioned mistakes exploited by the mixed multitude that led them to build the calf, and that only a small percentage of the people actually participated. Still, the magnitude of the sin seems totally disproportionate to the spiritual heights the people had so recently attained.

The sages therefore assert34 that the entire incident was "forced" upon the people by G-d; much as He maneuvered Adam and Eve into the sin of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, so did He maneuver the people here into the sin of the Golden Calf. The purpose in each case was to provide an example of repentance for wrongdoers to follow, or, in a larger sense, to enable humanity to rise to the heights of spiritual achievement only attainable through repentance.

Repentance is not a path in life that we can chose on our own, since no one is allowed to sin intentionally. It is possible to repent only after we suffer an inadvertent lapse in Divine consciousness, allowing us to be duped into wrongdoing. Therefore, since the people at this time were beyond any wrongdoing, G-d had to give the evil inclination temporary sway over them so they could subsequently repent.35

(From https://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/850613/jewish/Chassidic-Insights.htm)
35.    Likutei Sichot, vol. 16, pp. 412-413.



1. On the verse (Ex: 33:1): “The L-rd spoke to Moshe: "Go, ascend from here, you and the people you have brought up from the land of Egypt (to the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: 'I will give it to your descendants.')”.

Rashi explains (in the second commentary one the verse):

you and the people: Here He did not say “Your people” (as He had said previously in Exod. 32:7 “for your people… have acted corruptly”). (אתה והעם: כאן לא נאמר ועמך).

In the simple understanding, this Rashi comes in conjunction to the prior commentary of this verse that has the heading “Go, ascend from here” (in the second explanation) that:

Another explanation: (This is) in contrast to what He said to him (Moshe) in time of anger, “Go, descend,” – In time of good will He said to him, Go, ascend”.

And in conjunction to this, Rashi states that, just as regarding Moshe, G-d, by stating “go, ascend”, “healed” that which He previously said (“in the time of anger”) “go, descend” - so too, this statement was regarding the Yidden.

For in contrast to G-d‘s previous statement (in Ex. 32:7): “(Go, descend), for your people that you have brought up from the land of Egypt etc.”, which is not an expression that praises the Yidden,

(as Rashi explains there: “your people…have acted corruptly: It does not say, “The people have acted corruptly,” but “your people.” Those are the mixed multitude whom you accepted on your own initiative . . they have acted corruptly and have corrupted others”),

G-d now said "(Go, ascend from here), you and the people”, not (“and your people”).

One must however understand:

One can understand why in the previous verse, that speaks regarding the mixed multitude

who “acted corruptly and have corrupted others”,

Rashi must explain the precise wording of the verse, namely why it states:  “your people“ instead of “the people”. Because the reason is that until that verse, we had not yet learned that only the mixed multitude were called  “your people“.

However, afterwards – in our verse, where it speaks of going to Eretz Yisroel , as it states: “Go, ascend from here,.. to the Land that I swore etc.” – and where it speaks, simply, regarding all Yidden - how could there now be a supposition that it should have stated  “your people “ and that Rashi must forewarn ( that “Here He did not say ‘Your people’”)?

On the other hand:

If there is a reason here that all the Yidden should be called (also) “Your people”, and in this aspect that they should be referred to, specifically, with that name,

which is an innovation and emphasis that “Here He did not say ‘Your people’” –

Rashi should have mentioned this on the verse: “And now go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you” – which was stated two verses prior to our verse (verse 34) - and comment there that “Here He did not say ‘Your people’”?

2. The explanation in this is:

Rashi wants to resolve an (additional) aspect that is not understood:

It is understood why the verse here must here say “Go, ascend from here” regarding Moshe (“you”) for until now we do not find that the status of “Go, descend” was removed from him.

However, regarding all the Yidden, to the “Am/people”, since it already stated “And now go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you”, what is being added by stating "Go, ascend.. to the land “ over what was stated previously?

So much so – that this was a separate statement from G-d – “The L-rd spoke to Moshe: ‘Go, ascend’”, and with the separation of the story of (verse 35) “Then the L-rd struck the people”?

Therefore Rashi learns that the two verses speak of two different categories:

·         “And now go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you” - speaks regarding the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov (and the others - "Whoever has sinned against Me, him I will erase from My book!")

·         And afterward, after the “Then the L-rd struck etc.” (which was a partial retribution) for their making the Calf, there is the innovation (and therefore, in a separate statement) “Go, ascend from here, you and the people etc.”, which speaks only regarding the mixed multitude, who required a separate forewarning (and rectification), as will be discussed in Par. 5.

(According to this, it is also straightforward why the verse states here “and the people you have brought up from the land of Egypt” (in other words, that Moshe took out of Egypt) – which is the same wording that states previously (verse 7) “for your people that you have brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly.” (Which refers to “the mixed multitude whom you accepted on your own initiative – as aforementioned in Rashi) – for even here the verse means only the mixed multitude).

3. The difference between the two aforementioned types regarding those that actually worshipped the Calf – is explained in the verse:

Rashi previously explained (in verse 20) that:

“Three death penalties were meted out there:

(1)    If there were witnesses (to the worship) and warning (had been issued to the sinners, they were punished) by the sword.

(2)    (Those who practiced idolatry with) witnesses but without warning (died) from a plague, as it is said: “Then the L-rd struck the people with a plague”

(3)    (Those who practiced idolatry both) without witnesses and without warning (died) from dropsy, for the water tested them and their stomachs swelled up “


Of these “three death penalties” which are referred to in the verse, there is a striking difference:

·         By the punishment by the “sword” (״סייף״) (1) – the verse (verse 28) states: “fell from among the people” (״ויפול מן העם גוי")

·         By the punishment by the plague (2) it also states (verse 35): “Then the L-rd struck the people” (״ויגוף ה׳ את העם״)

·         However, by the punishment by the “water testing” (3) - where “the water tested them and their stomachs swelled up“, it states (verse 20): “and gave (it to) Bnei Yisroel to drink“(וישק את בני ישראל).

The difference between “People/Am” and “Bnei Yisroel” simply is that:

·         “Am“ includes the entire people – also the converts etc.

·         “Bnei Yisroel” (which comes in contrast to “Am”) means – the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.

This is also stated in the verse regarding the going out of Egypt:

“The Bnei Yisroel traveled.. about six hundred thousand males.. A great mixture of nationalities (Eirev Rav) also went up with them” -

Thus we see that that the mixed multitude was not included in the count (the six hundred thousand) of the Bnei Yisroel.

According to this there is a great innovation:

Since the verse states “and gave (it to) Bnei Yisroel to drink“, it proves that, the mixed multitude were not given the water to drink. Therefore, one must say that, those of the mixed multitude who served the Calf without witnesses and without warning remained alive.

Therefore the statement “I will erase from My book” – was not that they were “destroyed together” – but rather “on the day I make an accounting  . .  (I will bring their sin to account against them)." As it was with the Bnei Yisroel. For Moshe also prayed (געבעטן) to G-d on behalf of the mixed multitude, and G-d answered that “I have heard you”.

4. Why, indeed however, was the mixed multitude not given the test of the water?

Rashi explains this in his explanation on the verse (20): “and gave (it to) the children of Israel to drink” that:

“He intended to test them like women suspected of adultery (Sotah/כסוטות) (are tested”

The question is – how is the aspect of Sotah relevant here?

Yet this is understood from Rashi in the continuation of the Parsha. On the verse “Carve out for yourself” (פטל לך):

“This is comparable to a king (who went off to a faraway land) and left his betrothed with the maidservants.

(As a result of the immoral behavior of the maidservants her (the betrothed's) reputation was besmirched. Her bridesman arose and tore up her marriage contract, saying: "If the king will decide to kill her I will tell him: 'She is not yet your wife'." (Consequently) the king investigated and found that the immoral behavior was only on the part of the maidservants. He was reconciled with her, whereupon the bridesman said to him (the king): "Write her another marriage contract for the first one was torn up." The king replied to him: "You are the one who tore it up. You buy other paper for yourself and I will write it for her in my handwriting.")

Here, too, the king is G-d, the maidservants are the mixed multitude, the bridesman is Moshe, G-d's betrothed is Yisroel.”

This means that the Sin of the Calf is similar to the sin of a betrothed maiden, and therefore - “He intended to test them like women suspected of adultery”.

According to this, it is understood simply why the mixed multitude were not given the waters to drink – for since “the maidservants are the mixed multitude” – meaning that they are not “G-d's betrothed” – the aspect of testing them “like women suspected of adultery” is not applicable to them.

5. According to all the aforementioned, the innovation in the verse ‘"Go, ascend from here, you and the people” over “go, lead the people etc.” is understood:

·         “Go, lead the people etc.” speaks of the Yidden who did not serve the Calf (for those among the Bnei Yisroel who served the Calf were judged with the three deaths) and their sin was that they did not object (or something similar).

·         However, with the verse ‘"Go, ascend”, G-d made known to Moshe a new thing – that even those of the mixed multitude who did sin with the Calf (and remained alive because there were no witnesses and there was no warning) - they too would be able to ‘"Go etc.”, and even more so to ‘"Go ascend” – that (even) they attained the aspect of “ascending”.

In what was manifest their ascending?

Rashi therefore states that:

“Here He did not say ‘Your people’. This means that since they repented for their sin, they could now be referred to (not as “Your people”, but rather a higher level) “the people”.

6. With this it is also answered why, specifically here in the verse, it precisely states and adds:

(Over the previous verse: “go, lead the people to the place of which I have spoken to you”)

"Go, ascend from here, you and the people”. For it should have stated: "Go, ascend you and the people” (without the words “from here”).

The precision in the verse means that the “ascending” should be “from here” (״מזה״) – away (and – higher) from the Sin of the Calf (by Moshe – of whom it states that “I gave you this high position only for their sake” (לא נתתי לך גדולה אלא בשבילם), and by the mixed multitude- who served the Calf).

However, the Bnei Yisroel (of whom it states: “go, lead the people”) who did not serve the Calf, did not need the announcement of "Go, ascend from here” (from the Sin of the Calf).

7. In the end, however, it is not straightforward:

How is it indeed possible that specifically the mixed multitude,

who were the main sinners and worshipers of the Calf (“They have acted corruptly and have corrupted others”) - that  

1.       They were not all judged with the death penalty?

2.       They were given the statement: (not “go, lead the people”, but) "Go, ascend”?

One could explain this by prefacing a statement of the Sages – that the Mishkan is eternal since the works of Moshe are eternal. Yet how can this be since the gold and silver etc. was from all the Yidden, and the Mishkan and its vessels were made by Betzalel etc., not by Moshe. – However, since the preparation was started by Moshe (and the clarification of how to make it – “that you have been shown”) – how much more so does this apply to the “mixed multitude whom you accepted on your own initiative and whom you converted” – therefore it was “The souls that he made”.

8. One could say that the inner explanation of this is:

The completeness of the rectification of the Sin of the Calf was manifested in that which the mixed multitude (were not destroyed, but rather) rectified and elevated, as will be discussed.

One can understand this by prefacing that which the Sages state regarding the Sin of the Calf:

“Yisroel was not suitable to commit that act (to worship the Calf) (״לא ישראל ראוין לאותו מעשה״) and that the Sin of the Calf was a “decree from the King (G-d)” in order to give an opening/excuse for Baalei Teshuvah (ליתו פתחון פה לבעלי תשובה)”.

The inner explanation of this is known that the concept of “giving an opening/excuse for Baalei Teshuvah” does not refer to the Baalei Teshuvah that would come later, but (also) to the Yidden who were in that time - that they should attain the virtue of Teshuvah. For Teshuvah is an Avodah that a person cannot choose (אויסקלייבן) at the outset (לכתחילה). On the contrary, “one who says ‘I shall sin and repent, no opportunity will be given to him to repent”. However, if one has, G-d forbid, stumbled, he is given the opportunity (געלעגנהייט) so that he can and must do Teshuvah.

However, together with this, there is (also) a great virtue in the Avodah of Teshuvah over the Avodah of Tzaddikim, as the Sages state: “In the place where Baalei Teshuvah (“returnees/penitents”) stand, complete Tzaddikim cannot stand there.”

Therefore, in order that the Yidden who were at Matan Torah (also) attain the virtue of Teshuvah – which they were not able to do of their own accord since they were not suitable for that Avodah (because “they were masters of their inclination”) - there had to be a “decree of the King” that the Evil Inclination should rule over them, for a short period, in order for them to achieve the virtue of Teshuvah.

9. Among the advantages of the Avodah of Teshuvah over that of the Avodah of Tzaddikim is that, specifically through Teshuvah, one is able to refine the holy sparks that fell and are found in the Three Impure Klipot (ג׳ קליפות הטמאות).

An upright person goes forward (אן אדם ישר הולד). A Tzaddik can elevate the holy sparks which are found in permissible aspects and mundane things, however he must push aside (דוחה זיין) forbidden aspects (he cannot transform a forbidden thing to a holy thing).

A Baal Teshuvah, however, through complete Teshuvah, can effect that his premeditated transgressions (זדונות) become merits (זכיות). This means that, not only does he nullify the evil, but even more so, that he elevates the holy sparks which were in the “willful transgressions” (“zedonot”), so much so that they become “merits” (and holiness).

10. This aforementioned distinction between a Tzaddik and a Baal Teshuva – that specifically a Baal Teshuvah can elevate the sparks of the Three Impure Klipot – is not just because a Tzaddik does not possess “zedonot”, but rather it is because it is also connected with the general distinction between the Avodah of Tzaddikim and the Avodah of Teshuvah.

The explanation of this is:

From the perspective of G-d’s true unity (Achdus ha’Amitis/אתדות האמיתית), it is not applicable to say that there is an entity which does not pertain (דערגרייכט), G-d forbid, to the unity. As the Sages state:

“There is none else beside Him.. even sorcery. (Why is sorcery called keshafim?) Because it contradicts heavenly council”

(Note: Keshafim is an abbreviation for: Kachash, Famalia, Ma'alah.-Opposes the Council on High)

However in this – in the Achdus - there are two aspects:

1. The evil is not a contradiction to G-d‘s unity – because it is not an independent entity (מציאות), but rather it is as aspect of “absence” (״העדר״) (of G-dliness) – and the unity becomes revealed through the Avodah of rejecting (דוחה) the evil.

2. The holy spark which enlivens the evil becomes visibly united with G-dliness – even though beforehand it was “so far away and darkened that it is as if it is evil”. For the purpose and inner intent of the creation of evil (which is the aspect of the holy spark within it) is, that it should be transformed to good and elevated to holiness – and this comes about through the Avodah of Teshuvah, in which the “willful transgressions (“zedonot”) become “merits” for him”. The holy spark becomes elevated into holiness.

11. In general, this is the difference between the Achdus HaShem which is from the perspective of G-dliness, and how it becomes revealed in the world.

·         From the perspective of Achdus HaShem as it is felt (הערט זיך) in the world – meaning that the world, of its own aspect is united with G-dliness – since the nature of evil, from the perspective of the world, is that it opposes G-dliness - the unity of G-d is revealed through rejecting the evil. This reveals that the evil is an aspect of “absence” (״העדר״).

·         From G-d‘s perspective, however, the true being of a thing, is only its inner aspect and intent – the spark and word of G-d that enlivens it. Therefore, from the perspective of the “Dvar HaShem” – the G-dly word that gives vitality, as it were, to evil - it is felt, that the existence of evil is for the purpose of elevating it (through Teshuvah) into holiness.

12. And this is the difference between the Avodah of Tzaddikim and the Avodah of Teshuva:

·         The Avodah of Tzaddikim is in a manner of drawing down from Above to below - drawing down G-dliness into the world. This also pertains to evil – they reveal the Achdus of G-d in the evil, as it is from the perspective of the world (Olam/world - which cloaks (ma’alim), hides, and opposes G-dliness. This is accomplished through rejecting the evil, as aforementioned.

·         The Avodah of Baalei Teshuvah is in a manner of elevating – from below to above – going out (ארויסגיין) of the world. From this perspective, the person feels it as it is “above”. This also pertains to evil - realizing the inner aspect and intent of the evil, that it is the “Dvar HaShem”, which is united with G-d. And (through this) he elevates (through Teshuvah) the (spark of the) evil to holiness.

13. With this one can understand the statement of the Sages that the reason for the Sin of the Calf, was that it came about because the Yidden, at Matan Torah, saw the face of the ox (פני שור), that was on the Divine Chariot (שבמרכבה). This is, seemingly, a great puzzlement:

Although it is indeed true that the Sin of the Calf was a “Decree of the King” (as aforementioned, at length) – why, however, and how was it possible that it should come about by gazing at the (face of the ox that was on) the Divine Chariot - and that they saw this (specifically) at the time of Matan Torah?

However, according to the aforementioned – that the aspect of the Sin of the Calf was in order to bring the Yidden to the virtue of Teshuvah, it is understood. For the Avodah of Teshuvah of the Yidden is a continuation (המשך) of the revelation of Matan Torah.

At the time of Matan Torah, the Achdus of G-d was revealed, as it is “Above”. And in order for this Achdus to also become revealed with regard to the world, below, so much that it extends to the work of sorcery – the Three Impure Klipot - it must be through (the “Decree of the King” and) the Teshuvah of the Yidden for the sin of the Calf.

14. The refinement of these lowermost sparks in the evil, through Teshuvah on the Sin of the Calf, manifested itself in that which, those of the mixed multitude who worshipped the Calf and remained alive – (also) repented with Teshuvah.

For the mixed multitude, who “acted corruptly and have corrupted others” – who led astray and seduced (ממיתים ומדיחים), and which Torat Emet states that it is forbidden to find any merit for them - are from the Three Impure Klipot – that are completely evil and do not possess any good, at all – Therefore their Teshuvah was an aspect of “willful transgressions becoming merits for him” – transforming darkness to light.

And this is the inner reason in the verse: "(Go), ascend from here, (you and the people you have brought up from the land of Egypt)”. The ascending is “from here” - the ascending which came about through the Sin of the Calf – it was recognizable that the mixed multitude had rectified themselves and elevated themselves to holiness – that from “your people” they became – “The people”.

The Haftarahs are “from the aspect of the Parsha” – and we find this very point also in the Haftarah of Parshat Tisa – in the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel:

Regarding the bull that “was offered in the name of Baal”, the Sages state that it did not want to go. “And it said to Elijah etc. ‘that one (the bull belonging to Elijah) was allotted to G-d’s portion and G-d’s Name will sanctified through him. But I was allotted for the sake of Baal, to anger my Creator!’’ Elijah answered him “just as the name of the Holy One, will be sanctified by the one that is with me, so too will it be sanctified through you!’ 

This simply means that the just as the bull of Elijah sanctified G-d‘s name through what occurred with its offering, which visibly showed the truth of Elijah’s prophecy – so too the bull “that was offered in the name of Baal” sanctified G-d‘s name through that which “there was no voice and no answer” at the time of its offering – which showed the falseness of the prophets of Baal (and through this – the truth of G-d).

However, it is not completely understood:

From the wording of the Midrash: “just as (כשם) the name of the Holy One, will be sanctified by the one that is with me, so too (כך) will it be sanctified through you!’”, it implies that the sanctification of G-d‘s name through both of the bulls was equal. Yet, seemingly, the sanctification of G-d‘s name through Elijah‘s bull, was through and in the bull – the truth of G-d was revealed in its offering. However, regarding the bull “that was offered in the name of Baal”, the sanctification of G-d‘s name came about in a negative manner (באופן שלילי) - through not being consumed, it showed that the Baal is not true.

The explanation of this is:

Through the Avodah of Elijah (and his influencing the Yidden to do Teshuvah) - the Achdus of G-d was revealed below (that “the L-rd is G-d”) just as it is “Above”. And since, from the perspective of this Achdus, the “word of G-d” -the Pnimiyut and intent of (everything in) in the world, is revealed in the world.

Therefore “just as the name of the Holy One, is sanctified by the one that is with me, so too will it be sanctified through you!’” – The same Achdus.

(for through Teshuvah, the pnimiyut of the bull that was offered in the name of the Baal, was revealed – as the (spark of) the bull became elevated in holiness).

15. From this there is a practical lesson:

There are some that are enthused only by things which, from the onset, are holy. In them, they claim, the “Name of G-d” becomes revealed.

However, to prevent someone from committing a sin, G-d forbid – which as the Alter Rebbe explains, (every sin) is really (ממש) a contradiction of the Supernal Will and is comparable to the prohibition of bowing to idols – this, he does not engage in. For he claims that he does not want to deal with a “bull that is for idol worship”.

On this we say that “just as the name of the Holy One, is sanctified by the one that is with me, so too will it be sanctified through you!’”. The very same Achdus is revealed specifically by taking the “precious out of the vile (יָקָר מִזּוֹלֵל)” – by occupying oneself with the task of returning through Teshuvah, those who need (נויטיגען) to do Teshuvah, for through this - willful transgressions become merits for them.

And on the contrary, in the story of Elijah, the order was that first he gave to the prophets of Baal, the bull “that was for the sake of Baal”, so that they should try to offer it, and only afterwards, did he offer up his bull. This means that the Avodah of sanctifying “G-d‘s name” through the bull “that was for the sake of Baal”, came before Elijah’s bull –the “name of the Holy One, is sanctified by the one that is with me”.

So too is also the Avodah of each person:

Even when the Avodah of bringing a Jew who is far from Judaism (מקרב זיין) close, is connected with taking away time from one’s Torah study and Avodah (“this that is with me”). Nevertheless, one must know that the Heavenly Name (שם שמים) must be sanctified by elevating the bull “that was for the sake of Baal” - bringing a Jew who is far from Judaism, close – just as one sanctifies “G-d’s name by the one that is with me” – through his own Torah and Avodah.

And this doubled Avodah which is similar to the story in the Torah regarding Elijah HaNavi, who announces the Geulah, will bring the true and complete Geulah, really soon (בקרוב ממש).

mSichas Shabbat Parshat Tisa 5731

Chag HaShavuot 5724, Shabbat Parshat Shmot 5736

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