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The Golden Calf and Divine Oneness - Ki Tisa

Thursday, 17 February, 2022 - 10:08 pm


The Golden Calf and Divine Oneness 

This week's portion tells the story of colossal failure and spiritual descent, when Jewish people, just forty days after accepting the Torah at Sinai, betrayed G-d and served the golden calf. Yet, the name of the portion, Ki Tisa, "when you will raise {the heads of the Jewish people}" implies that this is a story not of descent but of elevation. 

After the sin of the golden calf G-d told Moses:

"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.' (Exodus 33:1)

G-d tells Moses "Go ascend from here", meaning, the experience of the sin and repentance itself, will lead to an even greater ascent. 

Indeed, our Sages teach "where the baal teshuva {the person who repents from sin} stands, even the completely righteous cannot stand." The baal teshuva is superior not just because of his intense, passionate longing for G-d, but also because of his contribution to the purpose of creation. While the righteous person only interacts with the neutral and holy experiences, the baal teshuva, who experiences sin and unholiness, elevates the sparks of goodness hidden within sin and brings them back to their source within G-d. 

There are two perspectives on reality. From the first perspective, the perspective of creation, the world is divided into good and evil. G-d's presence and oneness are expressed exclusively in the realm of good, whereas evil must be avoided and rejected. This is the perspective of the righteous. The baal teshuva, by contrast, rises to a far more profound experience of the unity of G-d. The baal teshuva experiences the second perspective, the point of view of the creator, who sees that the true essence of evil is the Divine spark responsible for its creation and continued existence. Therefore, through repentance and transformation, even evil can be elevated and reunited with holiness.  

These two paths, of the righteous and the baal teshuva, exist within each of us. While we hope for a life of holiness, serenity, and peace, while we dream of the path of the righteous, we often experience challenges, pain, and disappointment. When we do, we must realize that G-d is blessing us with the opportunity to rise to greater heights, to reconnect and recommit to our goals and values with greater passion. When we do, we will rise from the perspective of the creation to the perspective of the creator. We will discover the hidden spark within every experience. We will extend the awareness of the oneness of G-d into every aspect of reality, ultimately transforming the world into a place of goodness and kindness. 

(Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos Ki Tisa 16:4)

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