Torah Tidbits

19 April 2014 / 19 Nisan 5774
Issue 1036
Shabbat Parshat Ki Tisa
February 28, 2013

Divrei Menachem

Divrei Menachem

In this day and age when the fate of democratic governments depends on a small number of marginal votes or when the survival of a regime rests on the mad excesses of an idiosyncratic despot, it might be worth spending a minute to reflect on the opening words of our parsha. When terms such as “Tzedek Chevrati” are banded about to refer to the social nature of our “Just Society” or when our leaders make vast claims concerning their magnanimous contributions to their constituents, we would be well to dwell on the introduction to Ki Tisa for elucidation of the literal expression, “When you elevate the heads [ROSH] of Bnei Yisra’el…” (Shemot 30:12).
This phrase introduces the upcoming census of the people and can be understood as meaning that the monetary contributions of the rank and file not only facilitated the counting of the people but also that the act of giving to the community raised the moral level of each and every contributor.  However, the term ROSH can also be understood as meaning the head or leader of the people.
From our perspective, monetary gifts for the common good are called TZEDAKA, from the root word meaning righteousness. That is to say that doing for others in our tradition is more than philanthropy or even charity; it is to do the right thing as a member of the Jewish faith, as an act of Imitatio Dei, an imitation of the Divine. Thus when we all contribute to the census or do for others, we actually create the consensus among ourselves. Paradoxically, it is we who have the capacity to elevate ourselves and our leaders - and not the other way round.

Shabbat Shalom, Menachem Persoff

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