There are times when a popular rebellion that threatens to take down an entire kingdom starts by external forces. A band of infiltrators settles down and, over time, undermines the stability of the country. They inject silent venom of mutiny and bitterness that easily sways the people’s emotions. Their toxic speech wreck a delicate structure of trust and admiration. At those times, the dispute between the people and the leaders isn’t the real problem at the heart of the nation; rather, it is a foreign affliction, virulent and deadly as cancer, that needs to be removed. The way to return the trust and rebuild the relationships is to separate the people from the foreign influence and unite them around a kernel of true trust and appreciation of the sublime honor of the kingdom.
Last week the Torah told us just of such an event. The people of Israel, the crown of creation, the beloved children of Hashem, pure souls for whom the entire universe and beyond was created – fall, in one instant, from utter perfection to the depth of unimaginable sacrilege.
But the horrendous transgression wasn’t the deed of the Jewish souls. The devastating breakdown of trust and faith was the deed of Egyptian infiltrators, the “Erev Rav”.
As long as the Jewish nation was secluded, they basked in the closeness to G-d and the sublime privilege of His unparalleled love for them. The nature of this intimate relationship cannot be described with words. The people of Israel were immersed in a divine glow that is beyond description of being picked out of billions of identical people and made incomparably unique. When one feels that way, the legs lift themselves up all on their own and run to serve Hashem. When the heart is overflowing with love for Hashem, it pulls the entire body with unbreakable ropes of love. But somebody really didn’t like that special connection.
The Infiltrators’ Rebellion
There are always those who take a very jaundice view of the special relationship Israel has with Hashem. During the failing of the golden calf, it was the Erev Rav who introduced the bane of rebelliousness into the hearts of the people of Israel. They killed the very living spirit that pulsates in the Jewish heart, replacing it with doubt and suspicion. This is the way of Amalek, he who jumped into the fire to put out the flame of Jewish faith. Like the Erev Rav, Amalek introduced the notion of עם קל, a rearrangement of the letters of its name עמלק, inferring that Israel is ‘just another nation’, nothing special. A nation like any other. From there to downfall, the way is short and easy.
The golden calf wrecked the Jewish heart, yes, yet in parshas VaYakhel the Torah tells us how this damage was rectified.
ויקהל משה – “And Moshe has gathered the congregation of Israel”. The Holy Zohar explains “The congregation of Israel” – excluding the Erev Rav. This gathering came to rectify the crime of the golden calf by separating the nation of Israel from the Egyptian lecherous plague. This is the secret.
The sin of the golden calf is the direct result of intermingling; it’s as simple as that. This is what Amalek and the Erev Rav are after: the dimming of the divine radiance of our Jewish identity.
Erev Rav, Get Out!
The way to disrobe the heavy, soiled garments of heresy is to hold an exclusive gathering that rejects everything that doesn’t belong in the inner Jewish point. The Erev Rav ‘gave us’ many things; opinions … emotions … doubt … calling them by fancy names to camouflage the fact they are a rancid fruit of foreign spirit. The results of that ‘enlightenment’ are the feelings of distance and fatigue that led to the sin of the golden calf, as well as the confusions of emunah people experience today.
If we want to renew our connection to Hashem we must first get rid of that which comes from the outside and gather around the points of goodness, good thoughts and the true wisdom of the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu.
Moshe reveals that even though we’ve sinned, Hashem’s affection is still with us, a love of a Father to His children which we will never be able to imagine. During this gathering Moshe connected himself to every single Jew, from the greatest to the lowliest. Even the lowest Jew received the astonishing gift of connecting to Moshe. This is possible because Tzaddikim see the G-dliness in everything, even when it’s deeply concealed in the very dwelling of defilement itself. When Moshe looks at the smallest Jew he sees only the Jewish point in him. This is what enables Moshe to connect himself with everyone.
To Gather So We Can Pray
Purim is right ahead of us. The story of the Megila eerily reflects the present times we live in. The people of Israel need mercy and pardon like never before. We are all stuck deep to our necks in the mud of trouble and difficulties.
We watch over millenniums at the marvels of the Megila and wordlessly wonder if ניסים can happen today as well. Can we dream of miracles? The answer is that it is not only possible, but essential. What we need to do now is gather.
Gathering creates unity and unity brings the essential faith to the heart of the nation. A Jewish heart must be nourished with emunah. To pray and achieve deliverance, we have to be glowing with the pride of belonging to the Kingdom of Hashem. When the people of Israel can cast off the filth that became mixed in with the life of emunah and gather around our points of goodness, emunah, and hope, the gates of prayer will be flung wide open.
VaYakhel renews the living remembrance of the love of a merciful Father. Getting together and expelling the external influences kindle the Jewish fire in our hearts again. It is what allows us to know that no matter how low we might have sunk; His love is still with us. At anytime and anyplace we can get together and evoke new compassion upon us all.
All we have to do, is do it.