All Together Now???


Jerusalem, Israel
HaRav Yehuda Kroizer SHLIT"A, Rosh Yeshiva

18 Adar, 5766/17-18 March, 2006


Hashem said to Moses: "Take yourself spices - stacte, onycha and galbanum - spices and pure frankincense: they shall be equal one to another." Here the Torah is commanding the Kohanim (priests), who, in their daily work in the Temple service, had to bring a blend of 11 different spices mixed together to be burnt on the golden altar. So beautiful was the aroma of the holy incense, that when it was burnt in Jerusalem, the brides of Jerusalem would not need to perfume themselves for their wedding day because of the strong and wonderful fragrance coming from the Temple.

Still, our Rabbis informs us that the galbanum, one of the 11 items of incense used in the daily ceremony, had a very foul smell, yet the Torah still counted it among the 11 types of incense that were burnt on the altar. Rashi explains that this is in order to teach us that we should not consider it insignificant to include the sinners of Israel with us as members of the congregation for our fasts and prayers, so that they should be counted among us. The Talmud teaches us that any fast in which the sinners of Israel do not participate, is not a fast. The galbanum has a foul smell, yet the Torah listed it with the ingredients of the incense.

How noble is this idea that the unity of the Jewish people must also include within us the sinners - otherwise, there is no unity at all. Could there be a higher goal than this?

But, wait: What is this? Just a few lines away from this noble cause, we find the unfolding story of the atrocity of the golden calf. So severe was the sin of worshipping the calf, that our Rabbis teach us that there is no punishment in this world brought down to the Jewish people without some punishment for this sin, meaning that this sin will follow us until the end of days. Even more disturbing, we find Moses' battle cry for all who fear the L-rd to come to his aid, and to go through the camp and kill all those who worshipped the calf. "And the Levites did according to the word of Moses, and there fell of the people about three thousand men on that day."

But wait, isn’t this the exact opposite of the concept that we had just learned: to also include the sinners of Israelwith us? Why have them killed? Is that nice? Surely, we must hold on to our unity!

To answer this troubling predicament, we turn to the Rambam (Maimonides) in his laws of Teshuva - Repentance -where he writes: All the sinners of Israel are judged according to their sins, and they have a place in the world to come, for all of Israel have a place in the world to come even though they have sinned. Then the Rambam goes on to teach us: And these are the ones who have no place in the world to come, whose sins are so great that they are forever cut off from the people... He goes on to detail a list of some 14 categories of Jews who lose their world to come.

It seems that sometimes a Jew's actions are so severe, so appalling, that he can actually lose everything, including being cut off from his people forever. What type of sins would these be? It would have to include sins that fall into the category of public sinning, such as worshipping idols, causing others to sin, denying the Torah, blasphemy, and such. Such a sinner loses all, as the Rambam writes, and so we find Moses commanding the Levites to kill all who worshipped the golden calf, for they have no place with us.

On the other hand, sinners in private matters surely can repent of their sins and return, just as the Torah includes the galbanum with the other incense to teach us that the community of Israel is made up of all; the righteous, the mediocre, and the sinners. Yes, even the sinners, as long as they don’t step out of the category of being part of the Jewish people - for then they exclude themselves from us. As the Haggada of Passover teaches us concerning the four sons: The wicked one says: How did Hashem do all of this for you, for you and not for him - for if he was in Egypt he would not have been redeemed.

This, then, is the lesson of the galbanum: Unity, yes, but not at any price!

With love of Israel,
Levi Chazen

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