Honigman Wide 2022

Parshas Ki Sisa - Chet Ha-Egel, Chometz and Bosor B'Cholov

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Mar 6, 2009
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When Hashem forgave B'nei Yisroel for the Chet Ha-Egel (Sin of the Calf), He presented mitzvos which were seemingly designed to prevent a recurrence of a transgression of this sort. Thus, the prohibitions of entering into covenants with the (idolatrous) Cana'anim (Canaanites), making idolatrous images and prostrating oneself to avodah zarah (false gods) appear in the passages of God's rapprochement with His nation and His grant of forgiveness.(24:12-17)


In a similar vein do we find mitzvos in these pesukim which reinforce the new covenant of rapprochement between Hashem and K'lal Yisroel, such as the Shalosh Regalim (Three Pilgrimage Festivals) and Bikkurim (First Fruits). These mitzvos compel the Jew to approach God and actively seek a close relationship with Him, as did Moshe approach Hashem in seeking forgiveness for the Chet Ha-Egel; for in the post-Egel period, B'nei Yisroel must prove their worthiness of Hashem's Presence dwelling among them by actively pursuing a relationship with Him, unlike in the pre-Egel period, in which God provided for and resided among His people without the need for them to seek His Presence and proactively work toward it. (See first d'var Torah on Parshas Ki Sisa in this series.)


However, there appear two mitzvos in the list of commandments upon the reconciliation between Hashem and His nation which seem out of place. We read, "You shall not slaughter the (Pesach) sacrifice with chometz (leaven)...You shall not cook a kid in its mother's milk." (34:25-26) The Gemara explains that the first of these two mitzvos prohibits one from offering the Korban Pesach while possessing chometz, and that the second mitzvah (which appears three times in the Torah) prohibits eating, cooking and benefiting from meat and milk mixtures. How do these mitzvos fit into the theme under discussion? They seem to be totally unrelated.


As was explained in the d'var Torah referenced above, the lesson of the Chet Ha-Egel is to be submissive to Hashem and His mitzvos rather than being presumptive and subjective in fealty to Torah and Halacha. B'nei Yisroel presumed that Moshe had died and was not to return, so they took things into their own hands and decided to make the form of a a new leader, which quickly degenerated into idolatry. (See Medrash and Rashi on 32:1.) One can suggest that the two prohibitions noted above are part of this theme. Chometz and bosor b'cholov (meat and milk) are not philosophically objectionable like idolatry; they do not represent a rejection of God or a cardinal sin. However, the Torah created extreme stringencies and extra precautions pertaining to them, such that even possessing chometz on Erev Pesach afternoon, when one offers the Korban Pesach, and even cooking meat and milk or having any benefit from them, are Biblically prohibited. These restrictions are counterintuitive, as they are unexpectedly severe stringencies and safeguards for the prohibitions of chometz and bosor b'cholov, which are not cardinal sins or forms of avodah zarah. Reflective of this seemingly incomprehensible emphasis on the prohibitions of chometz and bosor b'cholov are  these two restrictions included in the passages of rapprochement after the Chet Ha-Egel, for the new covenant with God accentuates submissive, objective adherence to His Torah, to as to prevent the presumptive and subjective observance which engendered the Chet Ha-Egel.


Torah-true approach of God cannot include subjectively-defined service. Only by knowing that we cannot know everything and appreciating and observing the Torah even when it seems counterintuitive can our relationship with Hashem be legitimate and favorable. This is what Moshe Rabbeinu davened for, and on these terms did God consent to continue His relationship with us and seek our allegiance and closeness.

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