V’shamru (Adi Ran)

March 10, 2023

Today’s post is dedicated in honor of my dear friends Zev and Temima S. upon the recent birth of their son. May he be a continuous source of nachas to you, your family and to gantz Klal Yisroel!

Holy cow, what a week! In Parshas Ki Sisa we read about the famous – or rather, infamous – chet ha’eigel. Standing at the foot of Har Sinai, we had reached the pinnacle. The world was healed at last, repaired to its original state – never again would there be exile or death…. But alas, that utopian state would not last as the sin of the Golden Calf ruined it all, and the Luchos we had been waiting for all along were shattered in front of our horrified eyes.

Although it was a crushing blow, this was not the end of our existence. The Torah tells us that Moshe Rabbeinu beseeched Hashem on our behalf, and that after achieving a partial pardon, we began proverbially picking up the broken pieces. Hashem told Moshe to carve a second pair of Luchos, and it is this set, of course, that we ultimately received.

The Gemara Shabbos (118b) states: “One who keeps Shabbos properly, even if he worships idols like (they did) in the generations of Enosh, he is forgiven.” The Gerrer Rebbe, Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter zt’l (The Imrei Emes) provides a beautiful understanding of this Tannaic dictum based on the words of a midrash yashan which states as follows: “When Moshe Rabbeinu broke the Luchos, not one word or even letter remained intact. All the letters flew into the air and became shards except for one line: Shamor es HaShabbos l’kadsho.” We see, says the Imrei Emes, that not even the chet ha’eigel could have any effect on the holy spiritual nature of Shabbos, and thus, even if a person commits the lowliest of aveiros like idol worship, Shabbos has the power to offer him forgiveness.

The Sadigura Rebbe, Rav Aharon Friedman zt’l (The Kedushas Aharon) writes that we see the meaning of this amazing midrash in the words of our Shabbos tefilos! The concluding verse in Yismach Moshe states: B’amdo lifanecha al Har Sinai – when Moshe Rabbeinu stood on Har Sinai, he turned to walk down the mountain, and saw the sin of the people, u’shnei luchos avanim, and the two stone Luchos he was holding in his arms, horid b’yado, were immediately thrown down and broken into slivers, v’kasuv bahem shmiras Shabbos – however, the piece of stone that had the words pertaining to the mitzvah of Shabbos remained intact and written, and did not break into pieces as the other dibros did. (Wow!)

But let’s not stop here! The tefillah of Yismach Moshe is clearly invoking the awe-inspiring transmission of the Aseres Hadibros (Parshas Yisro), but when citing its source, quotes from a completely different place in the Torah. What pesukim do we then quote in regards to the mitzvah of Shmiras Shabbos? That’s right – the pesukim from this week’s parsha! V’chein kasuv b’sorasecha (31:16,17):

וְשָׁמְרוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת הַשַּׁבָּת לְדֹרֹתָם בְּרִית עוֹלָם
בֵּינִי וּבֵין בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל אוֹת הִיא לְעוֹלָם כִּי שֵֽׁשֶׁת יָמִים עָשָׂה ה’ אֶת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת הָאָרֶץ וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי שָׁבַת וַיִּנָּפַשׁ

These are two of the most well-known pesukim in the Torah. They are recited Friday nights before Shmoneh Esrei and they are also the opening verses of the Shabbos morning Kiddush. Over the centuries, beautiful niggunim aplenty have been composed to express the grandeur of these verses. But before we introduce our chosen tune for today’s post, let’s approach its lyrics with yet even more perspective.

Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu: פְּסָל לְךָ שְׁנֵי לֻחֹת אֲבָנִים כָּרִאשֹׁנִים – Carve for yourself two stone Luchos like the first ones. Chazal note that Moshe became rich from the hewn-off pieces of these second Luchos! The word פְּסָל is similar to פסולת, that which is unwanted and discarded, like garbage. Rav Moshe Wolfson shlit”a sees this as a hint to a fundamental fact of life: the work that we do to refine our character creates פסולת, and it is from this accumulation of פסולת that we are able to become rich!

That the process of rising after the fall, of reconstructing the broken pieces, of filling in the void, develops us spiritually in an unparalleled way. So much so, that in the end, we come out richer than before, reaching higher levels that we could have ever previously attained! As Chazal (Brachos 34b) teach, מקום שבעלי תשובה עומדין צדיקים גמורים אינם עומדין – even the perfectly righteous cannot stand in the place of the ba’al teshuvah.

So, while we are still in the middle of fixing the damage brought about by the chet ha’eigel, when we’re done, we will realize how all of our efforts to move beyond this epic failure contributed to an Olam Haba that is more perfect that what was possible before it occurred. (Wow again!)

V’shamru is from the 2004 album Ma Yesh Lachem Lid’og by singer/songwriter Adi Ran, and is sung as a duet with fellow Israeli songster Yossi Hoffman. But what I think sets this song apart from the others is that when listening to it, one can feel the raw emotion of its extraordinary composer.

Adi Ran isn’t your typical Jewish singer. He has been described as a “Chasidic Rock Star,” though he is much more than that. With his signature big beard, bushy peyos, Na Nach kippah and a serious penchant for wild guitar solos, Ran may have been a nonreligious Israeli rocker in a past life, but he now sings with a higher purpose. His music is heartfelt and honest – the kind of music that comes from the beauty of mended brokenness. And after all we’ve talked about, maybe that’s why I felt compelled to choose his V’shamru as today’s song.

Wishing each of you a Sanctified Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Parah!

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