Tetzaveh/Ki Tisa
Tetzaveh/Ki Tisa

Tetzaveh/Ki Tisa

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Defeating the Real Satan

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

According to the calculation of the Jewish People, Moses was delayed in descending from Mt. Sinai. The biblical narrative relates how the Jewish people approached Aaron saying: “Make for us a God that will go before us, because this man Moses who took us from Egypt, we do not know what has happened to him.” They, unnecessarily, refer to Moses with the demonstrative word ‘this’, which is used in a biblical sense when pointing at an object or person before one’s eyes. How could they possibly have been pointing their fingers towards Moses when he was absent?

The great Medieval scholar Rashi, quoting a teaching in the oral law, states: “Like a kind of image of Moses did the Satan show them, that Moses was being carried up in the heavens (as if he had died).” This explains the textual use of the demonstrative term ‘this’ — the people were pointing to the image they saw of the dead Moses ascending to heaven. The language used by Rashi is difficult. Why does he say: ‘Like a kind of image of Moses did the Satan show them’? It should have said: “An image of Moses did the Satan show them”?

I would like to humbly suggest the following interpretation. It is often neither the event nor the reality of a situation that gets us into trouble. What brings us down is our mind’s interpretation of events and reality. You see, the way negativity works is that it feeds on our mind’s natural tendency to interpret and judge the reality as negative and threatening. This is exactly what happened to the Jewish people. The reality was that Moses had not yet returned. A rational mind would have concluded: ‘Perhaps we misunderstood his words with regards to the timing of his return?’ or ‘Perhaps he was delayed due to illness or some other innocuous reason?’ The Jewish people allowed their minds to follow a negative tendency (referred to as the Satan) and interpret the reality in the most negative way. Their minds convinced them, with certainty, that Moses had died. They were so convinced that they could see in their minds’ eyes Moses ascending to heaven and point towards him saying ‘this man.’

How many family conflicts and wars have been fought as a result of this predisposition of the mind to make negative interpretations? How much unnecessary emotional suffering do we put ourselves through as a result of our minds’ negative interpretations of events and situations? I recently realized that most of my suffering results not from the situation itself, but rather from my mind’s negative interpretation of the situations and resultant negative thinking. This, friends, is the Satan we must strive to conquer. The way we overcome this pattern is simply by watching in our minds as an external observer. When we are able to do this, the futile and false nature of this process becomes apparent to us. We are then able to become positive, Godly human beings.