Hadrash Ve-Haiyun
Dor Revi'i

Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha
by Efraim Levine

The Reisha Rav
HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
Author of
Hadrash Ve-Haiyan

Ki Sisa

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Hashem spoke to Moshe “go ascend from here, you and the people whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land which I swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov Saying “I shall give it to your offspring” and I will send before you an angel, and I shall drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite and the Hittie and the Perizzite and the Hivvite and the Jebusite to a land flowing with milk and honey for I will not ascend in your midst for you are a stiff-necked people, lest I annihilate you on the way. The people heard this bad tiding and they grieved and each man did not put on his crown. (Shemos 33:1-4)

The posuk here relates that after the sin of the golden calf the Jewish people were informed that Hashem would not personally accompany them into Eretz Yisroel but only through an intermediary angel. A deeper interpretation of this posuk is as follows: Although everything that occurs in this world certainly happens only through the Will of Hashem, however, at times Hashem chooses to conceal his actions to the degree that it appears that He is not directly involved. It is only when we are truly deserving that Hashem chooses to display His Presence openly. After the sin of the golden calf we were no longer worthy that Hashem should openly display his Glory in our midst. Hashem chose to guide us in concealment to the degree that it would appear to us as if it were through an intermediary. The posuk concludes by noting the distress we experienced upon hearing that Hashem chose to withdraw his presence from us.

It is noteworthy that above in parshas mishpatim before the sin of the golden calf the posuk uses the very same expression. The posuk there states “Behold I shall send an angel before you to protect you on the way, and to bring you to the place that I have prepared” (Shemos 23:20). Rashi there points out that this posuk refers to the aftermath of the sin of the golden calf. Specifically, the posuk lets us know that the sin of the golden calf would condemn us to enter Eretz Yisroel through an angel and not directly by Hashem. We must note that this interpretation is only in hindsight. However, at that moment before the sin, certainly these words were not interpreted as a bad omen. Indeed, we do not find a sad reaction as we do here.

Likewise in parshas chayei sarah when Avraham instructed Eliezer to seek out a wife for his son Yitzchak, Avraham used the very same words. The posuk states “Hashem the God of the heavens Who took me from the house of my father and from the land of my birth and Who spoke for me and who swore to me saying to you offspring will I give this land He will send his angel before you and you will take a wife for my son from there” (Bereishis 24:7). Certainly Avraham would only choose words of blessing that have no taint of misfortune when instructing Eliezer to seek a wife for his son Yitzchak. All the more so when the destiny of the Jewish people depended on the success of the mission. Why then was there a sad reaction here in our parsha when the same words were used?

Let us suggest that the words “before you” may have two interpretations, a figurative one and a literal one. One possible interpretation is that the words “before you” are used as a synonym for guidance. Using this figurative translation the posuk would convey a positive message, that Hashem would send an angel to guide us to our destination. On the other hand, we may suggest that the words “before you” are translated literally as in front of you or ahead of you, which connotes without your recognition and perception. In our case this would convey a negative message that Hashem would send an angel that would go only in front of us where we would not merit to witness His guidance.

If we look closely at the two posukim we may note that there is a difference in the order of the words. Here in ki sisa the words “before you” appear first and then “angel” In mishpatim and chayei sarah the order is in reverse. First the word angel appears and then the words “before you.” We may suggest that the two aforementioned interpretations of the words “before you” depend on where they appear in the posuk. If the words “before you” appear first, then there is greater emphasis on these words, which leads us to translate them more literally. In our case this would have the negative connotation that we would not merit to witness Hashem’s guidance. Indeed this is the way it appears here in ki sisa and that is why the Jewish people had a sad reaction. However in mishpatim and chayei sarah these words appear last, leading us to translate them figuratively, which conveys the positive message that Hashem will guide us.

In conclusion, there is no contradiction between the posukim. The difference lies only in the order of the words. Likewise, when seeking a shidduch one should be careful to follow in the example of Avraham and figuratively formulate his or her request in the correct order. First “angel” and second “before you.” The prayer would then convey that not only do we request that Hashem should send the emissary before us but that we should also merit to witness in a palpable way Hashem’s involvement and presence in our personal lives.