Parashat Ki Tisa: The 4 origins of sin and their rectification


This week’s parashah is parashat  Ki Tisa. The most important story that is related  in this week’s parashah is chet ha’eigel  the sin of the Golden Calf, which is an all inclusive sin  of the Jewish people for which we are still  doing teshuvah [returning to God], until the complete teshuvah  which will bring Mashiach.

Although this may be considered the greatest sin of the Torah, in fact, if we contemplate the whole Torah from beginning to end there are four great sins. Obviously there are smaller, particular sins, but there are four great sins of the Torah. The first of course is at the very beginning of the Torah the primordial sin of Adam and Eve eating of the forbidden fruit calledchet Adam vechavah  [the sin of Adam and Eve] or chet ha’achilah me’eitz hada’at tov vara [the sin of eating from  the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil]. Then comes the sin of the brothers of Joseph, selling Joseph their brother into slavery, which again is a very all-inclusive sin for which the Jewish people actually suffers. The 10 martyrs in the time of the Roman Empire were a rectification of the 10 brothers that sold their brother Joseph into slavery. Then comes the sin of this week’s parashah which is the Golden Calf. And, finally the fourth, great all-inclusive sin is the sin of the spies, which is the “spying”  of the Promised Land the good land flowing  with milk and honey the Land of Israel and not believing sufficiently in the promise that Moshe Rabbeinu gave from  Hakadosh baruch hu [God] that we will be able to enter the land and conquer the land, and inhabit the land. Because of that sin we cry just as they cried that night – that they heard the bad report of the spies, so we cry every year on that night which is Tisha B’av because of the destruction of the first and the second Temples.

Each of the four sins comes from a different place a different negative psychological motivation. The first is a sin of pure lust the passion to eat from this beautiful attractive, delicious looking tree, fruit especially due to the fact that the primordial serpent, the snake promised that if you eat this fruit you’ll become like God to be able to create worlds. But, the simple thing that it says in the Torah is that Eve was simply attracted in passion to this tree and the fruit of the tree. According to Kabbalah it also has to do with sexual passion. It’s all lust it’s all passion.

Then comes the selling of the brothers that they sold their brother Joseph to slavery. Why? Because they were jealous of him. That they saw as though his father was preferring him over them. So they became very jealous of Joseph and because of jealousy they came to hate him, but the hatred is because of the jealousy. The primary motivation is the jealousy that they had.

Then comes the Golden Calf of this week’s parashah. And then finally comes the sin of the spies. First we’ll say what is the motivation of the sin of the spies. It’s because of fear. Any type of fear in the soul, phobia which makes one unable to take initiative  and to get up and to  do something is afraid, afraid of the results especially he’s afraid of failure he’s unable to do that particular task that he is told to do that he is supposed to do. So that fear of failure any type of fear that a person has that’s what’s behind the sin of the spies. The spies came back and said that the people who are inhabiting the land at present are just too strong for us It’s too great a task for us We will not be able to conquer them So because of that fear they talked to the fear they aroused the fear which was latent in the soul Because of that fear of having to go to war and that we will not succeed because they’re too strong that’s what was the primary motivation of this last sin.

What about the sin of this week’s portion which in a certain sense is the all-inclusive of all of them together. We’re taught that eigel hazahav [the golden calf] it’s gematria [numerical value] equals ko’ach hamedameh [כח המדמה]. Ko’ach hamedameh is a two word phrase which is literally the power of imagination it means mistaken association of the mind, which is sometimes referred to as katnut mochin [קטנות מוחין], small mindedness which is the source of superstition the emunot tefeilot in the soul. The person makes false connections false associations. He has misconceptions about reality and he takes obviously his misconceptions seriously He thinks that this is reality but, he’s in a state of semi-hallucination, or dreaming. And that’s what the Golden Calf is all about They also a hallucination that Moses was being carried in a coffin in heaven and that he’s dead. This is imagination ko’ach hamedameh. And if Moses is dead we have to immediately substitute him with something else. What is that? That’s the Golden Calf.

Once more the Golden Calf is the disconnection from Moses because Moses is da’at[knowledge] is great mature mind. Being disconnected from Moshe is katnut mochin; is just entering into a state of imagination that’s exactly what happened. So the motivation behind the Golden Calf is called ko’ach hamedameh, which is dimayon [imagination].

So we have these four different motivations behind the four great sins of the Torah Lust, and jealousy, and imagination and fear. But, the Torah teaches us that if there’s a sin there’s clearly  a rectification of the sin. The sin can be rectified and the sin will be rectified. The very word sin, cheit [חטא] equals chai [חי], Chai means “life,” “alive.” A sin makes one fall into a state of the opposite of life—it’s death, the opposite. But, sin can be resurrected from his fallen state of sin. And, that resurrection is by doing teshuvah. And after we do teshuvahretroactively it’s even was worthwhile, so to say, the sin itself however strange that seems because sin is the result of free choice. But finally, in God’s ultimate plan of reality everything is worthwhile because of the great Divine revelation that takes place when we do teshuvah. Together with the sin, teshuvah is in the sin itself.

The fact that there were four sins is alluded to in the very word “sin.” The [word] “sin” [חטא] has three letters to it chet [ח] and tet [ט] and alef [א]. Instead of adding those letters, that they equal 18 which is chai. If we multiply the letters one by the other it’s 8 times 9 times 1 equals 72. But, 72 itself is a multiple of 18 it’s 4 times 18. So in the word chet [חטא] itself there’s not just one chai but there’s actually four chai’s that all four sins will be… we will be resurrected from those sins by doing teshuvah.

It’s a well known custom in the Jewish people when giving charity which it says is the greatest practical rectification of sin is to give charity in sums of chai, because every chai equals the sin itself. The sin is coming from the unconscious of the soul It says that the word sin is an unintentional transgression Because deep down sin is something in one’s unconscious it’s a fall that begins with the unconscious When a person reaches out to help another person And when a person reaches out not just to help another person physically But to do tzedakah[charity]  is also spiritual. Like King David says that his own teshuvah that my ultimateteshuvah [charity] is ve’chata’im eleicha yashuvu [“And sinners will return to You”] to help other sinners do teshuvah That is the ultimate teshuvah that is the ultimate tzedakah, the ultimate charity. And that is what rectifies sin. And, as we said, even retroactively makes the sin worth, worth having sinned for the teshuvah and the great revelation of joy that comes from the revelation  of Hashem [God]… having returned to Him  from far, far away from a state that is called hefech hachayim, the opposite of life to become resurrected and return to life together with Hakadosh baruch hu [God].

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