After so many lockdowns and quarantines, my wife and I decided to take a small break. I rented a car, and she and I went out for our yearly vacation, a few months early.
The "highlight" of the trip was on the way back with my wife on the second day, on the road between Amuka and Tzfat, when suddenly one of the tires decided to get a puncture. For a man with a woman in the car, this is a dream come true (if he knows how to change the tire), or a nightmare (if he doesn't). Thank G-d, I know how, and to make the dream better, my wife clearly didn't believe me. So, I get out of the car, using my manly "strut" to check out the situation. I then unpacked the tools from the car and set up the jack and begin to remove the bolts from the tire, all the while thinking "I'll show her who's the real man here!"
Unfortunately, the wrench was not fitting the bolts and I could not move them a bit, putting us in quite a predicament, since we were on the side of a mountain on an unmarked road, with nighttime only a few hours away. Thankfully/unfortunately, out of nowhere, somebody from Yedidim pulls over. For those not from Israel: Yedidim is a volunteer group of frum car "experts" you can call and will alert one of their members in the area to come and help you for free. In this case, he was coming home from work and just "happened" to take the scenic way home today. Unfortunately for me, he was around my age, better looking, in better shape, complete with a firearm tucked into the back of his pants, and of course fully equipped with everything needed for cars. And to make things worse, he spoke English with a beautiful Israeli accent. Hence, the "real man" arrived at the scene. He looked at the tire, and started pulling of plastic caps that were covering the bolts, which I did not know exist (in my defense, he admitted, only a few cars actually have this "feature"), and proceeded to change the tire for me … in front of my wife, who was snapping photos for the kids of their fat, stupid, useless father, next to Mr. Awesome.
In the end, she complimented me on the way I pulled out the spare from the trunk and held it for him while he was fixing everything by himself. It looked great in the photos.
It was really humiliating. And may no other man ever have to experience that.
This week's parsha involves the infamous "Golden Calf" story. Each and every year I read over the parsha, I cannot help but remember the scene from "The Ten Commandments" with Charlton Heston.
What a terrible thing to live with.
Anyhow … this year, something hit me. When Hashem tells the Jewish people to execute those responsible for this major catastrophe, we learn that 3000 people were killed.
Anybody think about that? We have 2 to 3 million people here. 600,000 male adults. Yet, only 3000 people are held directly responsible. That's like 0.5 percent of the adult male population, or around 0.15 percent of the entire population. That's it! There are a few "spectacular sins" that the Jewish people are punished for in the Torah, as a whole, and this is one of them. Certainly one of the more popular sins (possibly thanks to Charlton Heston), and only 0.5 percent of adult males directly contributed to it. Even more interesting, afterwards Hashem hits the rest of the nation with a plague, with an unknown amount of casualties.
Recently, a few people came into Israel with fake papers certifying that they were "Corona-free" as, at this time Israel law will not let you in without it. Unfortunately, these particular people were religious. And naturally, it made the headlines in Israel. Of course, the religious world's immediate defense will be: "Okay, these are what? Ten people? And you're painting the entire religious world according to their behavior?"
And quite frankly, it's a very good point. Over the past year there have been several cases of groups of men … um … taking advantage of … very, very young female-people, in ways which are quite immoral and quite illegal. All of these men were secular, and you have yet to see an uprising against secular Jews in Israel for this.
On the other hand, we have this week's parsha, where less than one-half percent took part in this sin, yet the entire community suffers from it. So, what exactly is going on? We don't see Hashem making the argument, "Well, it's just a few bad apples, I'll just punish them and we'll forget about the whole incident."
I have no idea if this is true or not. It's just something that came to mind. If it's not, just forget about it. But perhaps the reason the entire nation was collectively punished is not because they participated in it, but rather because there was something going on "under the hood," some spiritual blemish, if you will, that permeated the nation and was not being fixed. While a vast majority of the nation did not take this blemish and turn it into action, it was not checked and fixed, and in turn, some actually DID take action based on this blemish.
So, yes, on one hand we can say, "Most frum Jews don't do this," but perhaps, we also need to look at things a little closer and ask, "How did this happen in the first place?" Perhaps it is an isolated incident. But perhaps not. By the nation, as a whole, looking into our own faults, perhaps we can identify and fix spiritual blemishes, before they are made actual.