Parshat Ki Tisa: Why the Tzaddik of the Generation always has to have opposition
Based on the writings of Rabbi Natan of Breslov in Likutey Halachot
Shemot 32:1 “The people saw that Moshe had delayed in descending the mountain.”
How is it possible that the sin of the Golden Calf really happened? How is it possible that a nation who’d witnessed the 10 plagues in Egypt, seen the sea split before them – and then deluge the Egyptians – would get panicked and antsy because Moshe Rabbenu was a day late coming back down the mountain?
Even if we’d like to blame the Erev Rav – the mixed multitude of Egyptian converts who tagged along with the nation of Israel following the destruction of Egypt – for all the problems, that still leaves us with a couple of awkward points that demand a response.
How could anyone do such a thing?
Firstly, even if we say that only a small number of Jews followed the Erev Rav into idol worship at the sin of the Golden Calf, how can we explain that even a single member of Am Yisrael would do such a thing straight after the giving of the Torah?!
And the Arizal also teaches that the Erev Rav themselves possessed a great deal of spiritual wisdom, or daat, and that they’d also willingly followed Moshe Rabbenu out of Egypt because they sincerely wanted to convert and become Jews.
So what got into them all?
Writing in Likutey Halachot, Orach Chaim, Rav Natan tells us that the whole world was only created in order to give man free choice.
But, in order for free choice to really exist, G-d gives the evil inclination tremendous power in this world, to confuse us and test us.
In order to even up the playing field after the tremendous miracles and spiritual insights the Jewish people obtained at the giving of the Torah, Hashem gave the evil inclination enormous abilities and powers to confuse the Jewish nation.
The evil inclination has tremendous strength
When Moshe Rabbenu went up the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights to receive the Torah, the evil inclination saw its chance, and threw everything it had into convincing the Jewish people that Moshe, the Tzaddik of the Generation, had disappeared, and had left them alone to fend for themselves in the desert.
Rav Natan writes: “[The people] had wrongly calculated that the time for Moshe’s arrival, the sixth hour, had already passed. The true position of the sun and the amount of light had become obscured by a great cloud layer, causing them to err. The spiritual root of this was the satan. He confused the world in line with the spiritual darkness of the day.”
Rav Natan continues that the satan’s power to confuse Am Yisrael and to drag them down into heresy and idol worship was so great, that only Moshe himself could really have withstood it. The true test of the nation was to continue to stand firm with Moshe Rabbenu, the Tzaddik of that generation, and to keep searching for him and hoping for him, in the midst of all the gloom and spiritual confusion and darkness.
And as it was then, so it is now.
In each generation, the test is to stay close to the true Tzaddik of that generation, despite all the confusion, doubts, opposition and controversy that the satan is given permission to whip-up around him.
The Arizal faced so much opposition in his generation, and many generations had to pass before he was universally recognized as a truly saintly individual. The same thing happened with the Baal Shem Tov, too. And Rebbe Nachman and the early Breslov chassidim also endured terrible violence, scandal-mongering and persecution.
Why does the evil inclination put in so much effort to obscuring the light of the True Tzaddik in every generation? Rav Natan explains that:
“It is only through [the Tzaddik of the Generation that a person receives…clarity of emuna…He is the one who infuses us with new insight, sharpening our emuna every day.
“Therefore, the [evil inclination] uses every means at his disposal to obscure and hide the tzaddik, dogging him with dispute and opponents of his methods. This is to prevent people from drawing close to him, for the whole principle of emuna depends on him, which is the essential holiness of the Jewish people.”