Ben-Tzion Spitz
Former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay

Shmini: We’re all in the Same Boat

When a man has done all he can do, still there is a mighty, mysterious agency over which he needs influence to secure success. The one way he can reach it is by prayer. — Russel H. Conwell

When Moses was apparently delayed in returning from the top of Mount Sinai, the people panicked and forced his brother Aaron to construct the infamous Golden Calf. God, in His fury, was ready to wipe out the people of Israel, but thanks to Moses’ intervention God relented and the nation was spared.

Fast forward many months later and Aaron, the newly inducted High Priest, during the consecration of the freshly built Tabernacle, is commanded by God to bring a sacrifice of a calf to atone for himself as well as for the entire nation. The Meshech Chochma on Leviticus 9:7 explains that this calf comes to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf.

He further elaborates that Aaron had not been completely spared from punishment. The older two of his four sons, Nadav and Avihu, were killed by God in a dramatic divine fire which emanated in the Tabernacle. Moses’ prayer led to God sparing only the two younger sons. Moses’ prayer did half the job.

The Meshech Chochma explains that the people still required atonement. While it was Aaron who physically constructed the Golden Calf, the people of Israel are the ones who had forced him to do it, and therefore they had a measure of responsibility that had not been forgiven. Therefore, Aaron’s sacrifice of the calf as an atonement for his sin of the Golden Calf would also serve as an atonement for the nation’s role in demanding of him to construct the idol.

They were in the same boat. They were essentially partners in the sin and the sacrifice would serve to atone for both Aaron and the nation. Aaron, the High Priest, needed to pray both for himself as well as for the rest of the nation. Thankfully, his sacrifice and his prayers were subsequently accepted.

May our prayers be rapidly accepted and may we see health restored to the entire world, quickly.

Shabbat Shalom,



To those smart enough to be careful with social distancing.

About the Author
Ben-Tzion Spitz is the former Chief Rabbi of Uruguay. He is the author of six books of Biblical Fiction and hundreds of articles and stories dealing with biblical themes. He is the publisher of Torah.Works, a website dedicated to the exploration of classic Jewish texts, as well as TweetYomi, which publishes daily Torah tweets on Parsha, Mishna, Daf, Rambam, Halacha, Tanya and Emuna. Ben-Tzion is a graduate of Yeshiva University and received his Master’s in Mechanical Engineering from Columbia University.
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