This week the focus of the Parsha is the tragic sin of the Golden Calf. After Moshe Rabbeinu went up to Heaven to receive the Torah, the Jewish people miscalculated the date of Moshe’s return. They built the calf initially as a replacement for Moses. Ultimately, they started worshipping it as a god in its own right. When Moshe came down Mount Sinai and saw the Jews dancing around the calf, he smashed the tablets. Hashem announced to Moshe that He wished to destroy His people and start again from scratch. But after much pleading and praying from Moshe, G-D agreed to forgive the Jews.
There’s an interesting observation made by the Chiddushei HaRim:
Each Parshah in the Torah is split into 7 parts. On Shabbos, when the Torah is read in shul, the custom is to call up a different person to the Torah at each of the 7 intervals. That person makes a blessing, then stays with the Torah for the duration of his ‘aliyah’ while it is being read and finishes this honour with another blessing. The first two are allotted to a kohen and Levi respectively.
Usually, the aliyos are roughly even in length. Each one is around 13-15% of the portion’s total verses.
But this time it seems a bit uneven. The kohen receives 44 verses, while the Levi receives 46. They cover 90 verse between them. There are then 47 verses left to split between the remaining 5 aliyos.
In other words, Kohen and Levi take up a good 70% of the Torah reading.
But what really makes it interesting is that the first two sections are the ones that speak about the Jews’ downfall with the golden calf. The 2nd Aliyah finishes just before G-D forgives His people.
It’s as if, when Torah was split up, it was done in a way to make sure that the only people to read about this incident would be the descendants of the tribe of Levi, who didn’t participate in the sin.
The Chiddushei HaRim explains that this was indeed deliberate. The sages who did it did not want the evildoers’ descendants to read about the sins of their fathers. To do so would be disrespectful to them. It was more appropriate to ensure that the offspring of the innocent Levites be given this honour.
Such is the value we place on honouring one’s parents.
Today, it’s not en vogue respect one’s parents. Their ‘old fashioned’ views don’t make sense to younger people, as we live in a culture of entitlement.
This is just one reminder of how false that notion is. All parents, at the bare minimum, deserve our respect for simply bringing us into this world. And most parents go far, FAR beyond that.
And it goes beyond that too. Our Rabbis teach us that the love and respect that one is expected to have for his parents is the model for his relationship with G-D. Modern day studies indicate that children who learn to obey their parents fare much better socially and emotionally than those who don’t learn those skills. They learn to respect others in their lives and gain vital social skills.
Learning to love our parents is learning to respect others and ultimately love Hashem.
It’s a lesson not only to teach our kids but ourselves too.
(with thanks to Rabbi Meir Rappoport for this idea)