Ki Sisa: Intellectual (Emotional) Honesty

Two very famous verses, which most people say in their prayers every Friday night, are found in this week’s Torah portion of Ki Sisa (31:16,17): “And the Children of Israel shall keep the Shabbos, to make the Shabbos an eternal covenant for their generations. Between Me and the Children of Israel it is a sign forever that in six days Hashem made heaven and earth, and on the Seventh Day He rested and was refreshed (vayinafash [וינפש]).” The Daas Zekeinim, in the name of Rav Yehudah HaChasid (as well as the Baal HaTurim based on a gemara in Beitzah 16a) says that the last word of verse 17, “vayinafash,” is the source for the idea that we are given an extra soul on Shabbos. My rebbe in Eretz Yisrael, HaRav HaGaon Rav Avrohom Kanarek Shlita, may he live and be well, once told me that the extra soul is given to us in order that we be able to receive extra nourishment, that we may then optimally fulfill the mitzvah of ‘delighting in the Shabbos,’ with all the extra foods and meals we eat in honor of the Shabbos.

The Daas Zekeinim goes on to tell a story of a conversation Tunisrufus, an evil Roman emperor, had with Rebbe Akiva: “The evil Tunisrufis bumped into Rebbe Akiva on Shabbos. [Tunisrufus] asked him, ‘what is so special about today than all other days?’ [Rebbe Akiva] replied, ‘what is so special about you than any other man?’ [Tunisrufis] said back, ‘What did I ask you and what did you ask me? [Rebbe Akiva] retorted, [you asked] what is the difference between Shabbos and the other days of the week and I asked you what the difference between you and other people?’ [Tunisrufis] lashed backed, ‘The Almighty King of All Kings honored me by making me king.’ Rebbe Akiva said back to him, ‘So to the Almighty King of All Kings wanted that Shabbos should be honored.’ [Tunisrufis] then asked [Rebbe Akiva], ‘Why does He do melocho (forbidden actions) on Shabbos by transferring wind and rain from one domain to another?’ [Rebbe Akiva] answered him, ‘I know about you that you are an expert in the law of the Jews, two people who live in one courtyard if each one of them does not give towards an eruv enabling the area to be common ground for both then perhaps they may carry [in the courtyard] in certain circumstances on Shabbos. But if one person lives in one big courtyard even if it is the size of Antochia he is permitted to carry throughout [the whole entire courtyard without any questions.] So The Holy One Blessed Be He whose sky is His throne and the land is the pedestal for His feet and He fills the whole entire world with His honor and everything is His, therefore he can carry throughout the whole entire world.’” (Click here for Hebrew text)

The Evil Tunisrufis, as he was known, was the emperor of Rome. He controlled essentially the entire world at that time. Rome was the center of culture, philosophy, and intellectualism, and  Tunisrufis was obviously a highly touted intellectual. It seems from this Daas Zekeinim that not only was he well versed in Jewish Law, but he also had some level of belief in Hashem, attributing his success and power to the Almighty One. If so, how could he be so evil; to the point that the gemara records that he was the one who plowed over the site of the Holy Temple after it was destroyed?

It is evident from the tone of Tunisrufis’s questions that he was mocking the truth. We see from here that even if one intellectually knows something to be true, and can distinguish between right and wrong, he can still choose to be bad. It would seem that someone who, for whatever reason, cannot embrace what they know to be true, can also not simply choose to ignore it; they must resort to mockery, an emotional tactic, to justify their way of life.

A person has to be very careful in life in order to remain on the right path, the way of G-D. One must constantly ask him or herself: ‘what is the will of G-D at this moment?’ ‘What would He want me to do now?’ One must imbibe this attitude; it cannot be understood just on an intellectual level, but must also be consistently felt in one’s heart.

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