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A calamitous confusion

By Rabbi Dov Levy

In this week’s Parasha we are told of the terrible calamity of the worshipping of the golden calf. As Moshe Rabbenu receives the luchot from Hashem atop Har Sinai he is told Shemot (32:7) ‘Lech red ki shichet amecha – Go descend for your nation has ruined’. Moshe Rabbenu then descends Mount Sinai to witness the Jewish people worshipping the golden calf. The Chida questions the additional expression ‘red – descend!’, ‘Go for your nation has ruined’ would seem sufficient, the term ‘red’ seems superfluous.

The Chida answers that the word red (Resh Dalet) alludes to the core of the sin of the golden calf. The passuk towards the end of the Parsha says: ‘Lo tishtachave le’el acher – do not bow down to God’s of others’ (Shemot 34:14) where the word Acher is written with a large Resh. In Parashat Va’etchanan in the Shema, the word Echad is written with a large Dalet. Acher and Echad are both spelt Aleph Chet and only differ in the final letter – Resh and Dalet. Misaligning  one’s beliefs even slightly can be the difference between Echad, The One G-d and Acher – avodah zarah. Ascribing true power and ability to beings other than Hashem is at odds with His oneness and is the nisayon of avodah zarah.

Before Adam Harishon sinned there was clarity, not a shadow of a doubt that all forces, powers, beings and entities gain existence and ability from Hashem, the one power and root of everything. There are no opposing forces and even evil is a force created and maintained by Him. Once Adam sinned a perception formed of the existence of possibilities which don’t conform to Hashem’s will. Because of this the universe was cursed with thorns and thistles – in Hebrew ‘ Vekotz vedardar’. This new reality of a world devoid of the previous clarity, where opposing forces seem to exist, is summed up in dardar – Dalet Resh Dalet Resh, the two letters are confused thus Echad and Acher are confused. The difference between Dalet 4 and Resh 200 is 196 – Kuf Vav Zadi – Kotz. By sinning Adam Harishon brought Kotz and Dardar into the world, a lack of clarity as to who is the life force of absolutely every possible energy in the universe, and this is the root of avodah zarah. That same mistake was repeated at Har Sinai as Hashem said to Moshe Lech red ki shichet – they have ruined the red, confused the Dalet and the Resh yet again and served avodah Zarah.

Sowing the seeds of confusion and doubt in true Emunah of Hashem’s oneness is the task of Amalek. Hashem proclaims after the war with Amalek ‘Milchma LaShem BaAmalek midor dor – Hashem’s war with Amalek for every generation’. Again, the war is dor dor Dalet Resh Dalet Resh, a war to re-establish the clarity of early times, before the sin of Adam Harishon. We pray that Hashem will give clarity to see Him always and only rely and trust in Him – Chadesh Yamenu Kekedem, take us back to the former days with the coming of Mashiach bimhera beyamenu Amen!

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