Parsha Ki Sisa
Exodus 30:11 - 34:35

The Breakup of Orthodoxy ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of mysticism in Hebrew Gematria is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in peace.

Dear reader, we are living in an age that most of us as well as our parents NEVER could have dreamed of. Computers, incredible software, internet, e-mail, cell phones, fiber optics, television screens the size of walls, cable tv, satellite tv, CD's and DVD's, music rumbling from autos a block and a half away and much more. The communications industry is really happening... This communication storm of good and bad raging around us is deteriorating the basic fiber of our long established foundations of Yiddishkeit, G-d forbid! HOW?

Who has not been impacted by the crashing waves of communication? Consider the reverse of what Rabbi Akiva experienced! As an unlearned shepherd at the age of forty he stood at the banks of the river observing how seemingly unpowerful little drops of water falling on hard rock had over time through consistency worn away the hard surface of the rock. He used this to motivate himself to become Judaism's greatest scholar. Yet, dear holy reader, unfortunately the reverse is happening to us. The little drops of communication brilliantly landing, splashing and crashing time after time against the foundations of Judaism have begun to take their toll...!! G-d help us!! IT IS DIFFICULT TO IMAGINE HOW SOMETHING SO WONDERFUL COULD BE SO DAMAGING!

I am NOT by any means suggesting that we rid ourselves of these magnificent tools of communication. However we MUST learn how to use them properly!! The danger is in their misuse! Now let me stop for a minute to explain why this parsha is entitled The Breakup of Orthodoxy. At JewishPath we make great efforts NOT to define our religion by Orthodox, Traditional, Conservative, Reform and so forth. We make it a point to replace these defining words with the word "OBSERVANT" understanding that some of us are more or less observant. However in this instance it is necessary to specifically define the problem. All Jews are impacted by the brilliance of communication. When our conservative, fundamental, hardline right areas of observant Judaism are being impacted, specifically orthodoxy, it weakens all of Judaism. It is extremely serious for all of Judaism when the foundations of the seriously observant begin to crumble.

For so long the focus has been on intermarriage problems of the less observant.... The focus has been on assimilation... The focus has been on outreach of the observant... the focus has been on the Messianics... be careful of them....

Now, however, the focus is on the breakup of the more seriously observant. WHY? DIVORCE ... DOMESTIC VIOLENCE... BUSINESS DISHONESTY... SEXUAL IMPURITIES... All of these problems have strong connections to the vast communications industry. 1-900 numbers for phone sex... Instant ordering of movies on cable TV and satellite... Internet chat rooms where everything is discussed... Immediate internet access to sex... pornography, etc... G-d forbid!

Fifty years ago few of us had a telephone. Those who did were on a party line. It was expensive to call across town then. Now we have three, four or five phones in our home, caller identification, blocked calls, phone messaging, internet access, etc... etc... Today it costs less to call around the world than it used to cost to call across the state...

Fifty years ago few of us had a television. VCR's, CD's, DVD's, Camcorders did not exist... Now even the more seriously observant have one, two, even three televisions in their home. Few are hidden...

Fifty years ago the computer was an unknown term. Today most American homes, Jewish included, have at least one computer, internet access and games galore...

Dear reader, do not think for one second that these tools of technology have not impacted Judaism. They greatly have. At JewishPath over 50,000 lessons are studied monthly, and the number is growing, thank G-d...

Yet our first problem is in acknowledging that each of us is impacted by the vastness of the communications industry and that we rely and depend heavily on it. It was only 15 months ago, at the turn of the century / millenium, that everyone was frantic because of our dependence on computers {Y2K}. Our failings are also our blessings... IMMEDIATE ACCESS! It is so readily available. Most seriously observant Jewish community walls are breached when Jewish families in the community have television and VCR / DVD... If Jewish families have computers with internet access our children find ways to connect with these families. Adults also find ways to connect... Everyone is impacted! TO DENY THIS IS FOOLISH! Parents who brag, "We don't have a television or computer in our home" are only fooling themselves. I have heard so many LAME excuses... 'We only have a monitor in our home... we keep the TV under lock and key... we require passwords to view certain TV programs... our computer denies access to adult sites...'

Holy reader, this may be true. It is at least an attempt to place boundaries on the rotten side of the communications industry. It is at least an attempt to acknowledge the good and deny the bad! Yet this is only where defining our boundaries begins.

TIME is another factor. TIME is a factor for adults as well as for youth and children. HOW MUCH TIME do we dedicate to any area of communication including the phone? There was a time when rebbes did not have phones in their homes, when rebbes did not use cell phones. The members of the community had to either visit with the rebbbe at shul or at the rebbe's home! Visits were frequent and personal. Access was not as immediate as a phone call. Interruptions on the rebbe's life were more constrained, more controlled than the ringing, clanging, dinging, etc. of a phone. When a person needed to speak to the rebbe it was a drive or a walk not an easy phone call. Effort was involved! The effort placed a lid on disturbing the rebbe. NOT SO TODAY!

The same can be said for men who talk with each other... for women who talk with each other... for our non adult children who talk with each other...

Dear reader, the time we dedicate to phone usage has an impact on Judaism, on us, on our spouse, on our children, on our Jewish development, on our learning...

One may argue that the phone is a great time saver. There is no denying that. Yet one should think of the phone as a tool. Long ago in the Belk mishpachah we made a rule. We do not answer the phone just because it rings. We screen almost every call. We do not return every call. Why? Because our phone is a tool! We use it as a tool! We use our computers in the same fashion.

Holy reader, one must be conscious of the time dedicated to the computer as well as the phone and other communication devices... One should think of their computer / internet access as an instrument also. At JewishPath we receive hundreds of e-mails each week. Advertisements are deleted without reading! We do not respond to most of our e-mail. Simply put, we cannot reply to all of our e-mail. Many of our e-mails ask questions we have already discussed and posted on the internet. If the requester did a simple word search they could find the answer on our site. We do respond to pertinent e-mail AS TIME ALLOWS. We use our computer and the internet as a tool!

We could go on and on. All that is required is a little observation to determine how frequently one uses communication devices. The time we spend on these devices, NO MATTER HOW WONDERFUL OR HANDY, must come from somewhere. It is from here that the breakdown occurs, G-d forbid!

Ladies used to visit the rebbetzin when problems occurred. Now they call. When ladies visited the rebbetzin, she could give attention to the visitor/s as well as her children. The visitors could also take an active part in attending to needs. When a lady pays a visit to the rebbetzin, there may be other ladies present and sharing on a larger scale can take place. An individual phone conversation does not blend well into the rebbetzin's family life. It isolates the rebbetzin with one person, robs time from her children and others who may be present.

Years ago when I was desiring to remarry, a dear friend - a rebbe - arranged for a lady and me to meet and visit at his home one afternoon around a barbeque. We arrived. The rebbe was in the backyard preparing chicken. The rebbetzin was on the phone. The rebbetzin concluded the call after about fifteen minutes. She said it was important. We did not doubt her explanation. Five minutes later another call. This one was also important. Fifteen or twenty minutes passed. The rebbe excused himself. He went in the house to remind the rebbetzin that she had guests. A few minutes later she returned. Our barbeque chicken was cool. We ate a little while. Again the phone rang. Again the rebbetzin retreated to the house. Thirty minutes later, after numerous apologies by the rebbe, the lady guest grew weary of waiting and left. I also left, suggesting maybe another time would be better. Dear reader, I have seen this type of thing play out time and time again. It is not necessary to define who was right or wrong in this situation. All that is necessary is to realize that our phone is a tool! If we misuse the tool it is a serious problem.

We could define each communications situation. We could explain blow by blow how they, like little drops of water splash after splash, eventually erode the foundation of the seriously observant families and leaders. That is why it is important to place limits... boundaries on our communication tools...

Now in our parsha this week we read: "And spoke Hashem to Moshe saying, 'And you, you take top spices, pure myrrh five hundred [shekel weights] and spices of cinnamon from half [portions] two-hundred-fifty [shekel weights] and sweet calamus {plant] spices two-hundred-fifty [shekel weights]. And cassia [plant] two-hundred-fifty [shekel weights] in [the] shekel [value of] the Holy [Temple] and 5.7 liters [1 1/2 gallons] of olive oil. Make it into Holy Anointing Oil prepared from the spice blender; a maker of spices. [The blended spice] oil shall be for Holy Anointing. And [then] Anoint the Tent of Meeting, and [Anoint] the Ark of Witness, and [Anoint] The Table and all Vessels [pertaining to the Table], and [Anoint] the Menorah and all Vessels [pertaining to the Menorah], and [Anoint] the Altar of Incense, and [Anoint] The Altar of Offerings and all the Vessels [pertaining to the Altar of Offerings], [Anoint] The Wash Basin. And [Anoint] The Base [of the Wash Basin]. And Separate / Sanctify them and they each shall become [most] Holy of Holies. Anything that touches them will become Holy.'" Exodus 30:22-30 In other words, anoint and separate everything for Hashem.

We read in this passage about the selected spices, the preparation for blending, the expert individual chosen to blend the spices and the purpose for the spices. Now, holy reader, just as great preparation is made to anoint the Holiest Items of the Temple we are required each morning to prepare our vessel.

Part of that preparation is the boundaries that we place on our tools of communication. If within our home or office we misuse the tools of communication we are in fact distributing unholiness... i.e., we are NOT SEPARATING! If on the other hand we observe proper use of these tools then we are creating holiness. We need to separate everything to Hashem including our communication tools. That is not to suggest that some will not understand why we do not answer the phone or place limits on our phone conversations. It is not to suggest that readers will be pleased with no response to their e-mail...Yet SEPARATION... KEDUSHA is holiness.

Within our neshama... within our home... within our business we must place boundaries on our tools. Our communication tools can be separated. Our communication tools need to be separated so that "anything that touches them will become Holy"... so that we will be instruments of blessing to a world drowning in every form of communication imaginable.

We, the Jewish people, must step forward. We must separate the light and the darkness of communication tools. We must teach our children BY EXAMPLE that it is NOT acceptable to have unlimited phone conversations. Jewish time is precious! Jewish time must be separated wisely to the service of Hashem. We do this to safeguard our homes, our families, our marriages, our mealtimes, our quality of life in Yiddishkeit. Just because a person is a leader or a business owner / manager doesn't mean they have to sacrifice their family life. It is NOT enough to limit our children to the programs, the videos, CD's or DVD's they can watch but the time that they are allowed to spend watching them.

Just as we sanctify time on Shabbos we must sanctify time for Hashem during the rest of the week, sanctify time for our spouses, time for our children, time for our friends, time for ourselves. It is disgusting to observe television being used as a babysitting tool for children. Even when the subject is of the purest and most religious nature. THIS IS A MISUSE OF THE TOOL! PERIOD!! This is not establishing holiness in the sanctity of one's home!! It is NOT teaching our children to properly SEPARATE! It is NOT creating holiness. Everything that touches us or our children or the mezuzah of our home is not being transformed to holiness. Such actions are not transmitting blessing to our children, spouse, neighbors, community or the world.

Some of us are foolish enough to think that our time is unlimited. That is why I highly recommend "EXIT LINES." Exit lines are predetermined lines for both phone, internet and business discussions where one limits their time. Normally it is not acceptable for a person to just walk into one's office / business or home and begin an unscheduled meeting. Such a pattern gives the impression that you have unlimited time. It does not teach separation! If such a situation occurs you can either deny access or limit access. You could say, "I'm sorry but I must prepare for a meeting later today... I cannot discuss this now. Could we reschedule later?" A supervisor normally will appreciate you guarding your time. Other employees will learn your time is valuable. Other people will learn to respect your time and may, in congruence, learn to appreciate the Torah's definition of separation. If the individual is persistent, one might say, "O.K., let's set aside just two or five minutes right now BUT that is the best I can do."

One must guard their time as they guard the Shabbos! Time is valuable!

In a symbolic way we must anoint all of our communication tools.

What I am saying is to teach our children or others that all television is wrong or that owning a computer is wrong or having internet access is wrong IS NOT THE PROPER MESSAGE!! These tools of communication and others like them being developed are NOT going away! We must teach separation of good and evil! We must teach proper use of these and other communication tools! In most situations where we prohibit our children and others from using communication tools like phone, television, internet access, etc. we are in fact creating unnecessary RESENTMENT! Just as we teach nidah, kashrus and Shabbos, we must teach the HOLINESS OF

We MUST LEARN to sanctify all the instruments in and around the Mishkon of our lives...

It is NOT acceptable for a husband or a wife to be so wrapped up in whatever they do whereas to neglect their relationship, their children, their relatives or their community A rebbe must set boundaries on the time he spends with his followers. This is what parshas Yisro teaches. Yisro taught Moshe to place boundaries on his access to normal everyday matters. He taught delegation of his responsibilities to other capable individuals. Yisro taught separation of time! A rebbe like any other husband or parent MUST separate time for his wife and children. I know a rebbe who practices this like a religion. IT IS A RELIGION! IT IS JUDAISM! He spends quality time with his wife and each of their eleven children. He separates his family from his responsibilities of being a rebbe!

G-d does not desire a rebbe or a businessperson to be so involved with what they do to the point of neglect of their spouse, children or relatives... This only leads to the detraction of Yiddishkeit!

Holy reader, we conclude with these Gematrias;

Kal - Hah Noh Gay Ah - Baw Hehm - Yeek Dawsh {All touching these will become Holy}
This is our goal, that all our instruments within our home and office transmit holiness... including our communication tools!

Kal - Hah Noh Gay Ah
178 =
Ayin = 70 Gimmel = 3 Nun = 50 Hey = 5 - Lamid = 30 Chof = 20

Baw Hehm
- Yeek Dawsh
461 =
Shin = 300 Dalet = 4 Kuf = 100 Yud = 10 - Mem = 40 Hey= 5 Bais = 2

639 = 178 + 461

Vi Hees Bawr Choo {And you will bless}
639 = Vav = 6 Chof = 20 Reish =200 Bais = 2 Sav = 400 Hey = 5 Vav = 6

The Gematria of both are 639. 613 Torah Mitzvahs plus 26 {[right to left] 26 = Hey =5 Vav =6 Hey =5 Yud =10} meaning Hashem i.e. following Hashem and observing the Torah!

Hashem {The Name}
26 = Hey =5 Vav =6 Hey =5 Yud =10

In other words, those who follow Hashem {Gematria 26} and those who observe the Torah's 613 mitzvahs will be separated and will be a blessing! They will NOT be a part of the Jewish breakdown, thank G-d!

Best Wishes!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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