Monday, March 22, 2010

Tzav 5770-2010

"The Command" --

In this coming week’s parasha, parashat Tzav, the Al-mighty says to Moses (Leviticus 6:2): “Tzav et Aharon v’et bah’nahv lay’mor: Zoht toh’raht ha’olah,” Command Aaron and his sons saying, “This is the Law of the Olah, the burnt offering.”

In last week’s parasha, Vayikra, the Torah enumerates the general rules for all the offerings: the burnt offering, the meal offering, the peace offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering. The second verse of parashat Tzav, however, is the first instance where the word “Tzav,” command, is used with respect to a sacrifice. The other offerings were introduced with the words (Leviticus 1:2): “v’ah’mar’tah” say or (Leviticus 4:2): “da’bayer,” speak. Apparently, when the rules of the offerings are addressed directly to the people who bring these offerings the Torah uses a softer language. Now, however, when the Torah speaks directly to Aaron and his sons to teach them additional laws that have bearing on the sacrificial service, the Torah uses the more forceful imperative, “command.”

Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105, foremost commentator on the Bible)explains that the word Tzav, command, implies that the Kohanim, the priests, must be urged to be especially diligent when performing the Olah service. Furthermore, it applies not only to contemporary times, but also to future generations. Rashi also cites Rabbi Shimon’s statement in the Midrash, who argues that the priests must show particular commitment in this instance because their involvement with the Olah offering may result in a considerable financial loss to them.

Many commentators wonder why the Midrash’s reference to monetary loss is specifically associated with the Olah offering. The Taz (Rabbi David HaLevi Segal, 1586–1667, prominent Polish halachic authority and commentator on the Shulchan Aruch) in his volume, Divrei David, amplifies the question, pointing out that Rabbi Shimon was also perplexed as to why the word Tzav is mentioned only with regard to the Olah, the burnt offering. Shouldn’t the priests be urged to be conscientious in performing all sacrifices, not only the Olah, not only for now, but for all generations?

The Taz points to the fact that the priests needed encouragement with the burnt offering, in particular, since the offering is consumed completely by fire. This is in distinction to all other sacrifices where priests receive some of the flesh and are permitted to eat parts of the other sacrifices. Consequently, there is some doubt whether the priests will be as punctilious when dealing with the burnt offering. After all, the priests receive no personal benefit from this particular sacrifice.

The Gur Aryeh (supercommentary on Rashi, authored by Rabbi Judah Lowe, 1526-1609, the Maharal of Prague) adds to this by saying that not only do the priests not receive any benefit from the burnt offering, they may in fact suffer significant losses since, being preoccupied with the Olah, they are not free to earn their regular livelihood. Furthermore, even though the hides of the Olah are given to the priests, the hides’ value does not equal the priests’ loss of income.

The Ramban (Nachmanides, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270, Spanish Torah commentator) says that the monetary loss here is not that of the offering itself. He believes that it refers to the meal offering that priests are required to bring of their own resources to accompany each burnt offering.

Rabbi Yaakov Philber (Jerusalem scholar and educator, a leading disciple of Rav Kook), in his writings on the weekly parasha entitled Chemdat Yamim, further develops this theme. Citing the Chatam Sofer (Rabbi Moshe Sofer, 1762-1839, Rabbi of Pressburg) and other commentators, Rabbi Philber points out that the priests need encouragement especially with the Olah sacrifice. Because they receive so little from the Olah sacrifice, they would probably encourage the people to bring other sacrifices such as sin or guilt offerings from which the priests’ share is much greater.

The Chatam Sofer even suggests that emphasis should be placed on the first verse that states that G-d spoke to Moshe “lay’mor,” saying, indicating that there is a special mitzvah incumbent upon the priests to teach the people about the “Torah” of the burnt offering. The Talmud in Menachot 110a, cites Rabbi Isaac who asks: Why does the verse in Leviticus 7:37 state, “This is the law [Torah] of the burnt offering”? To teach that anyone who studies the laws of the burnt offering is considered as if he had already brought the offering. The Talmudic sage Ravah adds that those who study Torah are relieved of the obligation of bringing any sacrifices.

It may very well be that priests would be reluctant to encourage the people to study the laws concerning these offerings, since they know that those who study them are no longer required to bring offerings, resulting in significant financial losses for the priests. For that reason, the priests must be encouraged to be honest in their instruction, even though they may suffer financially. Ironically, it may even be to the benefit of the priests that the people sin, since they stand to profit from the sacrifices that are brought by the sinners!

Rabbi Philber points out that the “loss” may not necessarily be only financial, since the Olah ritual includes the priests’ responsibility to clean the ashes and maintain the fire on the altar. The cleaning of the ashes and the lighting of the fire might be regarded by the priests as denigrating. The priests, therefore, need encouragement in order to be prepared to sacrifice their self-esteem or honor when they fulfill their duties.

There is another important and powerful lesson that can be learned from the command given to the priests with regard to the burnt offering. There is an ongoing debate regarding the ultimate purpose of Jewish life. There are those who argue that the ultimate goal of Jewish life is to achieve joy. They maintain that one who keeps the Jewish commandments and lives a life according to G-d’s instructions, will find great personal happiness and joy. In fact, they point to the Garden of Eden, the garden of pleasantness or pleasure, as the ultimate ideal of Judaism.

I would argue that Judaism stands for a value significantly higher than joy. The ultimate value of Judaism is more a sense of fulfillment than a sense of joy or happiness. When one shops for the elderly or the infirm, visits the sick, or buries the dead, it can hardly be said that one reaps much joy from the experience. Quite to the contrary. Oftentimes, the experience is not very pleasant at all. But, there is a profound sense of fulfillment that one experiences that brings pleasure to the person who has performed a kindness or good deed.

The Cohen who has to burn the entire burnt offering without taking a part for himself and his family, experiences no joy. There is little joy in cleaning up the ashes or in keeping the fire of the altar burning 24 hours a day, every single day of the year. There is no joy for the priest who teaches the people of Israel not to sin, when he knows that it will likely lead to fewer sin offerings and less income for himself and his family. But there is the sense of knowing that what he is doing is the right thing, which results in a profound sense of fulfillment.

That is perhaps why our rabbis (Kiddushin 31a) say: “Gadol ha’metzuveh v’oh’seh, yoh’ter me’me sheh’ay’no metzuveh v’oh’seh” Greater is the reward for one who is commanded to do something and does it, than for someone who does it voluntarily. No one likes to be commanded to do anything. There is always resistance to commands! But there is right and wrong. There is benefit and a detriment. But, since there is great resistance when one is told what to do, the reward is greater, because one’s natural instincts are defied. The Cohen has sublimated his normal reaction to a command–-the tendency to lash out and say “absolutely not.”

These lessons are not for priests alone, but for all people. By faithfully living by this dictum, not only is the burnt sacrifice elevated, but the priests and the people are elevated as well.

May you be blessed.

This Shabbat, the Shabbat that immediately precedes Passover, is also known as Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Shabbat. On this Shabbat, we read a special Haftarah from the prophet Malachi 3:4-24, in which we find the verse: "Behold I send to you Elijah the Prophet, before the great and awesome day of G-d." For more information on Shabbat Hagadol, see Tzav 5762-2002.

The first two days of the joyous festival of Passover will be observed this year on Monday night, March 29th and all day Tuesday and Wednesday, March 30th and 31st. The seventh and eighth days of Passover begin on Sunday night, April 4th, and continue through Monday and Tuesday, April 5th and 6th.

Chag Kasher v’Samayach. Wishing all our friends a wonderful, joyous and meaningful Passover.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vayikra 5770-2010

"Do Leaders Corrupt, or are They Corrupted?" --

In this coming week's parasha, parashat Vayikra, we learn of the varied sacrifices and offerings that were brought in the Tabernacle, including burnt offerings, meal offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings.

The first sin offering mentioned is brought by the High Priest who has been elevated to his office through the ceremony of anointment. As the spiritual leader of the people of Israel, the High Priest is responsible for the people's religious well-being. Before there were rabbis, the priests actually served as the clergy and teachers of Israel. It was their responsibility to study the Torah and to teach it to the people.

The sages of the Talmud, Horayot 7a, conclude that the High Priest's sin offering is brought only under special circumstances. A Cohen Gadol, a High Priest, brings this sin offering if he makes an error in interpreting the law because it is obscure, and unintentionally sins on account of that error.

In Leviticus 4:3, the Torah tells us, "Eem ha'Cohen ha'Ma'shee'ach yeh'cheh'ta l'ahsh'maht hah'ahm, v'hik'reev ahl chah'tah'toh ah'sher chah'tah, par ben bakar tah'meem la'Hashem l'chah'taht," If the anointed Cohen will sin, bringing guilt upon the people; for his sin that he committed, he shall offer a young bull, unblemished, to the L-rd, as a sin offering.

Rabbi Chaim Dov Rabinowitz (1909-2001, Lithuanian born Bible scholar), in his comprehensive commentary on Jewish Scripture known as Da'at Sofrim, provides a Talmudic overview of the High Priest's obligation. Rabbi Rabinowitz explains that when listing the sin offerings, Scripture cites the sin of the anointed priest first, because his sin is more severe than that of all others, since he is closer to G-d and is expected to be far more punctilious in his behavior than a common Jew.

When the verse says that the priest brings guilt upon the people, it underscores that the anointed priest is not a common citizen, and that his misdeeds impact on the spiritual ledger of the people. Citing the Talmudic reference, Rabbi Rabinowitz notes how tragic it is for the people to have a leader who errs and sins.

The fact that the verse states that the anointed priest brings an offering for the sin that he has committed, might lead one to conclude that the offering comes to cleanse the Cohen from his sins, so that he can return to the Tabernacle and resume his holy duties. An old retired priest, on the other hand, who no longer performs the holy duties should not have to bring the offering. The rabbis, nevertheless, deduce from Scripture that even a retired priest who no longer actively serves is still obligated to bring the offerings for his past trespasses, since he was sanctified at birth and that sanctity remains upon him for the duration of his life.

The Talmud also asserts that one might mistakenly conclude that the anointed priest only brings offerings if others sin due to his mistake and instruction. However, this is not the case. An anointed priest brings the offering only if he himself trespassed because of a mistaken interpretation of the law. In fact, if the anointed priest sins together with the community he would not bring his own individual offering, but would join in the common offering that is brought to atone for the community's trespass.

Among the biblical commentators, there is a rather heated debate about what causes a High Priest to trespass. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040-1105, foremost commentator on the Bible) maintains that when a High Priest sins, he brings sin upon all the people, for the people are dependent upon him to atone for them and to pray on their behalf. It is the sinfulness of the High Priest that leads to the people's guilt, because their leader has not represented them effectively before G-d. Two other major classical commentators disagree with Rashi. The Ibn Ezra (1098-c.1164, Spanish Bible commentator) and the Sforno (Obadiah ben Jacob, 1470-1550, Italian Bible commentator) assert that people of great stature, like a High Priest, do not easily succumb to sin. Consequently, they conclude, it must be the low spiritual level of the people that drags the priest down.

It seems as if the Ibn Ezra and the Sforno subscribe to the well- known contemporary belief that people get the type of leaders that they deserve. Sinful people attract sinful leaders, good people attract good leaders.

There is no question that we are presently experiencing a leadership "black hole." Hardly a day passes that we do not learn of another leader who is exposed for illicit or immoral acts. The leaders run the gamut: governmental leaders as well as members of the clergy. How tragic it is that in less than one decade, three governors--of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut--were forced to resign for sexual misdeeds, misuse of authority or bribery. The question is, is the crisis of leadership due to the personal shortcomings of the leaders themselves or is the crisis of leadership due to their constituents? It seems as if this ancient debate has still not been resolved.

As I was standing in a synagogue recently, a visitor presented me with a postcard-sized list of the 43 Kings of Judah and Israel. Four kings, Saul, Ishboshet, David and Solomon, ruled over a united Israel. There were an additional 20 Kings of Judah and 19 Kings of Israel who ruled over the divided kingdom. Upon researching the subject, I discovered that more than half of the 43 kings were wicked. But not just wicked, they were idolaters, murderers, adulterers, and child sacrificers. In fact, 9 of the kings were themselves murdered, often by the "king" who succeeded them.

In many ways, we today should be happy that our politicians and religious leaders, venal as they are, are not committing the heinous crimes, sins and trespasses of the ancient kings of Israel.

In direct contradiction to many ancient philosophies and to much of contemporary thought, Judaism believes that, by nature, human beings are essentially evil, and that it takes rigorous efforts to do good. Evil happens automatically, while good always requires a proactive effort.

So, have we become a nation of Sodomites? By some objective standards, perhaps. Because of the incredible advances in technology we have produced weapons with massive destructive capacity that are killing more people than in any time in history. Television and the internet have brought more decadence into the home than in any time in history. It should come then as little surprise that probably 80% of Western society's entertainment and amusement is based on violence and sex. There is more of that than perhaps at any other time in history.

Are we corrupting our leaders, or are our leaders corrupting us? It seems as if the author of Ecclesiastes 7:20 was absolutely correct when he wrote, "There is no truly righteous person in the land who has not done evil." A wicked environment reduces its citizens, dehumanizes them, perverting those who seek to be honest, and blinding those who wish to be just.

Perhaps we need to return to the beginning, to circle the wagons and fight back. In ancient times, the priest could bring a public sin offering so that he and the people could start afresh. Unfortunately, our impoverished generation no longer has sacrifices. What offering can we bring to let everyone know that we have gone astray and to ask for help in leading us back on the righteous path?

Woe to the generation that has lost its way. Woe to the generation that has no leaders. In the absence of leaders, we must step up to lead.

May you be blessed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Vayakhel-Pekudei 5770-2010

"Heaven Helps Those Who Help Themselves" --

In the second of this week's double parashiot, parashat Pekudei, we read that after many days, weeks and months of labor (although no time is actually specified in the Torah) the work of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was completed.

In Exodus 39:32, we are told, "Va'tay'chel kohl ah'vo'daht mishkan ohel mo'ayd, va'yah'ah'soo Bnei Yisrael k'chol ah'sher tzee'vah Hashem et Moshe kayn ah'soo," All the work of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, was completed, and the children of Israel had done everything that the L-rd commanded Moses, so did they do.

The rabbis find the syntax of this verse awkward. The Hebrew word "Va'tay'chel" implies that the work of the Tabernacle was finished on its own. But then the verse states, "Va'yah'ah'soo Bnei Yisrael," the children of Israel had done everything that G-d commanded Moses to do. It would be much more logical for the verse to first state that the children of Israel had done everything that G-d commanded them to do, and then conclude with the phrase that the work of the Tabernacle was complete.

Interestingly enough, we find a similar description with regard to Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. In I Kings 6:7, when describing the conclusion of the building of the great Temple, Scripture states, "V'habayit b'hee'bah'noh'toh eh'vehn sh'lay'mah ma'sah niv'nah," For the house, when it was in building, was built in stone made ready at the quarry. The verse goes on to say that there was neither hammer nor ax, nor any tool of iron heard in the house while it was being built. Just as with the Tabernacle, Scripture does not state that the Temple was being built, but that it was in the process of building, as if it were building itself.

From this textual nuance in parashat Pekudei the rabbis deduce the futility of one who says, "I'd like to perform this mitzvah, but it seems impossible in my eyes." With that attitude of despair, the rabbis say, that mitzvah will never be accomplished. However, one who starts performing a mitzvah, despite knowing how difficult it might be, will find that the mitzvah will become progressively easier because Heaven will help those who make the effort. And even though much, or most, of the mitzvah was actually done through the help of Heaven, Heaven itself considers as if that mitzvah was done by human effort alone. Therefore, explain the rabbis, our verse states that the work of the Tabernacle was completed, as if by itself, and the children of Israel did all that G-d commanded. Scripture, in essence, attributes the entire accomplishment to the people of Israel, and not to G-d.

The rabbis further explain that the biblical verse suggests that the people felt inadequate because of the highly skilled labor that was required for many of the Tabernacle furnishings. But because of their full-hearted commitment to complete the Tabernacle, G-d instilled in them the skills that were necessary to accomplish the task.

Among the important contemporary lessons that may be gleaned from this particular verse are: the need for faith in ourselves, the need for faith in G-d, and the need for faith that G-d really cares and will help us.

Very often, the greatest impediment to success is our lack of faith in ourselves. We find the "little stuff" simply overwhelming. I recall one memorable instance many years ago. I was instructing several students how to kosher their homes, and suddenly we came across some non-kosher chewing gum on one of the shelves. Immediately one young woman definitively declared (it was captured on video): "If I can't have my chewing gum, I will never be able to be kosher!" Her perceived love for that brand of non-kosher chewing gum made her feel that she could never live without it. Fortunately, that was not the case. She currently lives in Jerusalem with her family and is a very accomplished and observant person.

If the desire and commitment is there (which may also be due to the help of G-d), there is really nothing that can stand in the way of accomplishing whatever we wish to accomplish, as long as we have confidence in ourselves.

The rabbis also teach that aside from personal confidence, faith in G-d is often as important as skill. There are different ways for us to develop our self confidence. Obviously, those who dream of becoming great pianists or great swimmers need to practice their skills and retain expert instructors who help them master the skills and techniques that are necessary. What is also necessary is that we have the belief that we can do it. This is what our rabbis call "s'yah'tah dish'mahya," help from Heaven.

There is, however, another aspect to this issue, that we often fail to note. The L-rd makes things happen for those who have trust in Him.

I have often wondered why Anwar Sadat concluded a monumental peace treaty with Israeli Prime Minister, Menachem Begin. After all, Menachem Begin was a hard-line Prime Minister. As a follower of Jabotinsky, he believed that not only was the West Bank of the Jordan part of Israel, but the East Bank as well. Nevertheless, peace came to Menachem Begin, and not to the more conciliatory Prime Ministers like Golda Meir or Levi Eshkol. I believe that this is directly attributable to the fact that Menachem Begin was the first Prime Minister in Israeli history, to ever use the phrase, "With the help of G-d we will achieve peace." Menachem Begin opened the door just a little to the Al-mighty, and let Him in. The rest is history!

We need not only have confidence in ourselves and confidence in G-d, we need to truly believe that G-d will help.

A beautiful story is told of two chasiddim who were on a business trip, and needed a place to stay for Shabbat. They finally found a kosher inn whose proprietor was a religious man. During the long Shabbat afternoon, the chasiddim begin to regale the innkeeper with stories about their wonder-working Rebbe. Upon hearing the fascinating stories, the innkeeper pleaded with them, that when they return home to their Rebbe, that they ask him for his blessing that he and his wife should have a child. Although the chassidim were a little nonplused, they agreed to do so.

That evening, after Shabbat, the innkeeper did a very strange thing. He outfitted a baby carriage with everything that a baby needed, and began to accost all the guests in the inn telling them to wish him a "Mazal Tov," because his wife was going to give birth to a child. "Did you hear the news?!" he shouted, "The two chassidim are going to ask for a blessing for my wife and myself, and she is going to give birth!"

When the two chassidim returned home and met their Rebbe, they related to him the request and the strange behavior of the innkeeper.

A year later, the two chassidim were on the same road, but were reluctant to enter the inn, perhaps the innkeeper's wife had not had a child. They listened by the door, and sure enough, they heard the cries of a newborn baby. Taking a chance, they entered, arriving at the circumcision ceremony of the innkeeper's firstborn son.

The innkeeper blessed the chassidim and showered them with gifts. But one of the two chassidim fell strangely silent, and all the way home refused to speak to the other chassid.

When they reached the outskirts of the village, the chassid broke into a run and ran into the court where the Rebbe lived, pounded on the door, pushed the assistant aside, and entered the Rebbe's chambers unannounced.

Startled, the Rebbe looked up, and saw the pained chassid standing before him.

The Rebbe said, "What's the matter, my son?" To which the chassid replied, "How could you be so cruel and uncaring? I am a loyal follower of yours. My father was a loyal follower of your father. Every year I come to you and beg that my wife and I be blessed with a child, and we have no child! This innkeeper never even met you, and he has a child! How could you be so cruel!?"

The Rebbe looked up, gazed piercingly into the chassid's eyes and said, "Did you ever push a baby carriage? Did you ever have the faith that my blessing would help?"

S'yah'tah dish'mahya, help from Heaven, comes to those who believe in themselves and in G-d, and are willing to make the special effort. The Tabernacle was finished by the people of Israel, even though they were unable to do it alone and needed G-d's help. They became G-d's partner. And, G-d became their partner.

May you be blessed.

This Shabbat, also known as Shabbat HaChodesh, is the last of the four special Shabbatot that surround the holiday of Purim. On this Shabbat a thematic Torah portion concerning the new month, Nissan, is read from Exodus 12:1-20.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ki Tisah 5770-2010

"Moses Wrestles with G-d" --

In this week's parasha, parashat Ki Tisah, we read of the fateful episode of the Golden Calf. Moses goes up the mountain for forty days and forty nights to receive the Torah. When Moses doesn't return by the fortieth day, the people become impatient and demand of Aaron that he make a "god" for them, because they do not know what has became of Moses. Trying to delay them, Aaron requests that the people bring the gold rings and jewelry from their sons, wives and daughters. Uncharacteristically, the people bring their jewelry with great alacrity. Aaron takes the jewelry from their hands, binds it in a cloth and fashions it into a molten calf. The people worship and dance before the Golden Calf.

G-d tells Moses to descend from the mountain because the people that he [Moses] brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. G-d tells Moses to stop badgering Him, allow Him to destroy the nation, and make from Moses a new and great nation.

With overtones of a PR consultant, Moses pleads before G-d and argues with Him. Why should Egypt say that G-d took the people out with evil intent, to kill them in the mountains and annihilate them from the face of the earth? Hold back Your anger, Moses implores, and reconsider the evil that You intend to do to the people. Remember, for the sake of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, that You promised that their offspring would be like the stars of heaven. Scripture then tells us (Exodus 32:14): "Va'yee'nah'chem Hashem ahl ha'ra'ah ah'sher dee'ber la'ah'soht l'ah'mo." And G-d reconsidered regarding the evil that He had declared to do to His people.

The Malbim (1809-1879, leading Torah scholar in Germany, Romania and Russia) expounds in great detail on Moses' argument with G-d, adding much insight into the exchange between them. The Malbim suggests that when pleading before G-d, Moses realized that his previous prayer on behalf of the people had been effective, since G-d had said, Exodus 32:10, "Leave Me alone, stop badgering Me," indicating that he has merit before G-d and that G-d was listening. This hint of success gives Moses the courage to plead further with G-d to withhold His destructive anger.

Arguing cogently and with great precision, Moses points out the fact that G-d was incorrect when He said to Moses (Exodus 32:7), "Your people have become corrupt!" In fact, says Moses, the sinners were not the Israelites, but rather the mixed multitude. Why then should You, G-d, be angry at Your people who were, at best, mistaken or misled by the mixed multitude? And if You, G-d, are angry that they didn't speak out and protest against the mixed multitude, You must realize that it was only recently that You took them out of Egypt, a place steeped in idolatry. How then, can You, G-d, expect that, in only a few days, the people should be transformed entirely to the point where they are prepared to kill others who are worshiping idols that they were so accustomed to in Egypt?!

Continuing the argument, Moses says: You, G-d, took the people out of Egypt with Your great strength and outstretched arm and many miracles. The purpose of this was that the people of Israel would be Your people, and that Your name would be known throughout the nations, that they [the nations] should all know that You are G-d. You, G-d, can not undo all that now! Not only would it invalidate everything that You have already done, it would result in a great desecration of Your name. For, after all, the Egyptians would say, "Why did the Hebrew G-d take them out with the evil intention of destroying them?"

Moses, in effect, explains that the Egyptians believed that there were two main gods, an evil god and a good god. The Egyptians would now say that it was the evil god who took the people out of Egypt. However, He did not kill them in Egypt, because he wanted to finish them off in the mountains, never to be buried, to be forever wiped off the face of the earth. Exodus 32:12: "Shoov may'cha'rohn ah'peh'chah v'hee'nah'chaym ahl ha'ra'ah l'ah'meh'chah." Relent, says Moses, from Your flaring anger, and reconsider the evil against Your people.

Recalling the famous Midrash, Moses then argues that if Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who could be compared to a table with three legs, could not sustain the people, how will I, Moses, a table with a single leg, be able to sustain them? The Malbim then proceeds to explain, that "Va'yee'nah'chaym," means that G-d reconsidered the evil that He was going to do to His nation, and would forgive the nation--but not the mixed multitude.

We see, especially with the added insights of the Malbim, how effectively Moses argues with G-d on behalf of the people. Unfortunately, Moses does not achieve total forgiveness, but rather a stay of execution, until the peoples' next rebellion!

May you be blessed.

This Shabbat is also known as Shabbat Parashat Parah. It is the third of four special Shabbatot that surround the holiday of Purim. On this Shabbat, a thematic Torah portion concerning the Red Heifer is read from Numbers 19:1-22.