Reprinted from Rabbi Lebhar of Magen David Sephardic Congregation
Here we are, Shushan Purim, and what an amazing Purim it was in Magen David. We all came together as a community and were able to rejoice as one big family. I fervently hope that Purim also gave us inspiration to have an even stronger commitment to our Torah.
This week's parsha contains the unfortunate sin of the Golden Calf. We are taught about the famous incident when Moshe stood at the gate of the camp and called for volunteers to punish the people involved in this grievous sin: "Who is for G-d? Let them gather to me." The Torah testifies that "all the children of Levi gathered by him." [Shemot 32:26]
Moshe instructed them based on the word of Hashem: "Let each man put on his sword and go from one gate to the other in the camp. Let each one kill [all those involved in the idolatry], even his own brother, close friend, or relative" [Shemot 32:27].
This is the first of a series of times when the Tribe of Levi rose to the occasion, putting aside their own personal considerations of family and friends and heeding the call of G-d to punish the people who deserved punishment. At the end of the Torah, Moshe recognized the Tribe of Levi's actions saying, "He was the one who said of his father and mother, 'I do not see them', not recognizing brother or child. They thus kept Your word and safeguarded Your covenant. [Devarim 33:9]"
Once, Holy Tzaddik Hafetz Haim asked a young boy if he was a Kohen or a Levi. He responded in the negative. The Hafetz Haim (who was a Kohen) told his young guest that it was a real pity that he did not have that status. "Mashiach will soon come and the Kohanim and the Leviim will have a premiere function in the Beit HaMikdash. The rest of the Jewish people will all be excluded. It's a shame you are not from the Tribe of Levi. You will miss out on all of these holy privileges."
The Hafetz Haim then asked the boy a very strange question: "Why are you not a Kohen?"
The boy gave the obvious answer. His father was not a Kohen.
But the Hafetz Haim persisted, "Why wasn't your father a Kohen?"
By this time the boy grasped that the Hafetz Haim was leading to a concept that had nothing to do with Yichus [lineage] or genealogy. The Hafetz Haim asked, "Do you know why your father was NOT a Kohen and my father WAS a Kohen? Because there was once a time in Jewish history when our teacher Moshe called out 'Who is for G-d? Let them gather to me.' My great- great grandfather answered the call and your great-great grandfather did not answer the call. That is why my father was a Kohen and your father was not a Kohen."
The Hafetz Haim was not trying to tease, saying "Hah, hah! I am a Kohen and you are not a Kohen". The Hafetz Haim did not engage in teasing behavior. The Hafetz Haim was not trying to "rub in" the fact that The boys ancestor did not respond to Moshe's call. Rav Frand points out that the point that the Hafetz Haim was driving home was that sometimes there are an occasions in life where the clarion call goes out to rally around G-d's banner. If upon hearing that call, one rises to the occasion, his actions can have ramifications until the end of time. If one fails to heed the call and does not respond, that too can affect not only the person, but also his children and his grandchildren, for all generations.
The point that the Hafetz Haim was trying to teach is that one day he himself might receive such a call, perhaps not in the exact same words, but in a similar way. The Hafetz Haim was saying to remember this lesson, so that he would not repeat the mistake of his great-great grandfather -- with potential ramifications until the end of time.
This is the level of commitment that we all need to commit to.