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Making a Positive Impression - Parshat Ki Tissa

By: Rabbi Gershon Turetsky

Rav Avahu said: All forty days that Moshe was up [on Har Sinai] he would learn and forget. He said “Master Of the Universe, I have forty days and I do not know anything”. What did the Holy One blessed be He do? At the end of forty days He gave him the Torah as a present, as the verse says “He gave to Moshe…” (Shmot Rabba 41)

The Shem Mishmuel is bothered by two issues with the above Medrash. Firstly, the implication of this Medrash is that the forty day period that Moshe spent on Har Sinai was, in essence, a waste of time. As much as Moshe tried, he was unable to retain what he was learnt. Why then would Hashem want Moshe up on the mountain learning? Furthermore, if in fact Moshe did not acquire his Torah knowledge until the end of his time on Har Sinai why is it always assumed that Moshe acquired the Torah over the entire forty day period?

The Shem Mishmuel answers that even though Moshe did not remember anything he learned, his learning made an impression. By the time the fortieth day came around all of these impressions came together to create a Kli through which Moshe would be able to receive the Torah from Hashem as a “present”, to the extent that he would not forget it again. Had it not been for the forty day learning experience up on Har Sinai Moshe never would have been able to receive the Torah from Hashem at the end of the forty day period.

This idea of the significance of impression can be applied to the relationship between Shabbat and the other days of the week. Over the course of the week we spend much of our time focusing on our Avodat Hashem, but as a result of all of the mundane issues that pervade the work week we can, at times, forget our spiritual accomplishments, and focus almost exclusively on our material activities. The Shem MiShmuel explains that even though one may forget the spiritual aspects of the week, it is these spiritual activities that create the Kli through which we can be Mekabel Shabbat.

This is an important lesson for every person to reflect upon. We must remember that even though we “learn and forget”, even though despite our learning and growth we may fall, one should never assume that the effort put forth has been for naught. Each spiritual activity leaves an impression that allows us to become better suited in the future for a heightened level of spirituality.


Categorized under: 1: Parshat Shavua > Ki Tisa