18 Adar 5781 / Tuesday, March 02, 2021 | Torah Reading: Ki Tisa
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Shemot: The King's Fountain Pen    

Shemot: The King's Fountain Pen

Our sages teach us that Hashem is truth and His Holy Name is truth. The Torah alludes to the eternal truth...


"I Shall Be As I Shall Be" (Shemot 3:14).
Our sages teach us that Hashem is truth and His Holy Name is truth. The Torah alludes to the eternal truth of Hashem's Name when Hashem reveals Himself to Moshe (Moses) for the first time on Mount Sinai. Moshe asks Hashem His name, and Hashem answers, "I Shall Be As I Shall Be". "I Shall Be" in Hebrew is אהיה – aleph, hey, yud, hey. In numerical equivalents, aleph = 1, hey = 5, yud = 10, hey = 5. 1 + 5 +10 +5 = 21. If we use the word "As" as a multiplication sign, then Hashem's Holy Name as revealed to Moses becomes a mathematical equation of 21 x 21 = 441. The Hebrew letter aleph = 1, mem = 40, and taph = 400; aleph, mem, and taph are the letters of the Hebrew word emet, truth!
Truth is Hashem's fountain pen. Therefore, whenever and wherever we find anything less than 100% true, we know that it's not Hashem's signature, for Hashem's fountain pen writes nothing but truth. An age-old expression of Breslever Chassidim, attributed to Rebbe Nachman's great grandfather the Baal Shem Tov of saintly and blessed memory, says that 99% truth is 100% lie. With Hashem's loving kindness, the following allegory will show just how:
Far across the seas, was a lush and beautiful island, where every variety of flora and fauna existed in an environment devoid of humans. The lion, a mighty monarch with an iron paw, ruled the island firmly but justly. He had to be strong to maintain justice within a populace where small and gentle animals were forced to coexist with numerous heartless predators.
One day, a delegation of wolves arrived at the castle for a meeting with the King Lion. Two formidable black bears, the royal guards, ushered the wolves into the King's chamber. "Your Majesty," the wolves said with a curtsy, meticulous in their palace etiquette, "There is a species dispersed among the faraway meadows of the kingdom whose ways differ from ours. They don't eat meat. Even worse, they feed on grasses, flowers, and the wild herbs of our land and thereby ruin the beauty of the countryside. Nothing is dearer to all of us than our lovely kingdom; this wretched species – the sheep – have no pity on our beloved land. They violate every single environmental law. They have no respect for endangered species of flowers or herbs. They deserve to be destroyed! We therefore respectfully petition that Your Majesty issue a royal decree that the sheep be slaughtered all in one day – ram, ewe, and lamb, with no exceptions! Our beautiful kingdom and picturesque countryside must be spared from this mutinous environmental menace!"
The King listened attentively to the wolves, and then stroked his mane with his paw for several moments. Emerging from deep thought, he told the wolves, "I shall weigh your proposal with utmost care, and shall be in touch with you again before the new moon."
An urgent proclamation, wing-written by the eagle, the King's personal scribe, was hand carried far and wide. "Hear ye, Hear ye! The nation of sheep must send a representation of flock elders to the castle within seven days to answer the charges against them!" News of the wolves' proposal spread through the kingdom like wildfire. In every meadow, the sheep declared days of fast and mourning. Luckily, the lion was a just monarch that was according them an opportunity to answer the accusations of the wolves.
The day of the hearing arrived, and the flock elders appeared punctually for the hearing. The elephant, secretary of the regal court, read the charges against the sheep. The King asked the chief flock elder, a venerable ram with the long white beard, "Why do you sheep destroy the environment? Why do you eat the most beautiful flowers and the lush grasses?
The chief flock elder answered the wolves' accusations one by one, clearly and convincingly. "Your majesty, the grasses and greenery have been our sustenance from time immemorial. According to the demagoguery of the wolves, there shouldn't be a blade of grass left in the kingdom. Nothing is further than the truth! The fact that we eat the grass without uprooting it stimulates new and greener growth. The Kingdom is greener than it ever was. Without sheep, the grass would become old straw, and our countries green meadows would become barren brown fields of thistle and briar. Our very presence during grazing also creates a fertilization of the meadows that stimulates and strengthens new growth. Even more…"
Before the chief flock elder finished his speech, the courtroom broke out in pandemonium. The ducks, geese, chickens, cows, and goats were applauding wildly. They knew that the old ram had destroyed the claims of their arch-oppressors the wolves. The elephant pounded his gavel to bring the assembly to order, and a few formidable growls from the two bears were enough to return silence to the courtroom.
The King considered the claims of both sides. He summoned the eagle and the elephant, and whispered instructions in their ears. The eagle prepared two writs – one with the accusations of the wolves, and the other with the defense of the sheep. The elephant folded each of the two writs, and passed them to the King. The eagle then gave the King a quill and parchment, for in cases involving capital punishment, only the King writes the verdict.
The King wrote a few words, and ripped up the parchment. The eagle passed him a new piece of parchment; he wrote a few words, and ripped that too. Roaring in frustration to the terror of all those present, the King declared: "These letters don't sparkle! The letters that comprise a verdict of truth must sparkle! I refuse to pass down judgment unless the verdict sparkles!"
After thinking for several seconds, the King declared: "Wolves! Sheep! Whoever brings me a writing utensil that is capable of writing sparkling letters proves that he represents the truth. You have three days time to bring me a pen that writes sparkling letters!"
The entire kingdom was perplexed; who on earth could bring the King a writing utensil that is capable of writing sparkling letters?
Far from the palace city, lived a clan of sheep in the foothills by the spring-fed river. Alter, the clan elder, would faithfully supervise his spouses and offspring during the day. After returning them safely to their night refuge, he'd stroll along the river, collect his thoughts, inhale the moist and fragrant air of nightfall, and gather renewed strength to perform his duties for the morrow. One such evening, as the full harvest moon darted in and out of the clouds while lining them with an exquisite gold and silver illumination, Alter heard a melody of such inspiration unlike anything that ever reached the wise ram's ears. Mystified, he followed the melody until it led him to a clump of reeds. The reeds were praising their Creator in a magnificent four-part orchestral harmony, swaying to and fro in the gentle night breeze. The lead reed, the tallest of the clump, whistled a breath-taking soprano solo that was subsequently answered by the choir's magnificent chorus. Alter the ram was so enthralled that he stood on his hind legs and began bleating too.
The breeze stopped suddenly, and so did the singing of the reeds. Tears were streaming down Alter's eyes.
"What troubles ye, old ram?" asked the lead reed.
"Your prayers were magnificent, reed! I felt an outpouring of the soul like never before."
"Ah," nodded the reed. "Our prayers were much stronger by virtue of your presence. We barely have the opportunity to serenade The Creator together with a representative of the animal kingdom. You, as a higher creation than us plants, helped elevate our prayers. For that, we reeds are beholden to you. Is there any way we can help you?"
Again, the troubled ram burst into tears. "My flocks, as well as all the sheep of the kingdom, are in serious trouble. A terrible decree threatens our very existence. Unless we find a writing utensil that is capable of writing sparkling letters…"
"Worry no more, honored ram. Divine Providence has led you to us. Pick one of our strong young reeds, and Godspeed to the castle. Any reed that sings nightly praises to The Creator can write letters that not only glisten, but can illuminate the darkness. Go! You have no time to waste!"
Alter, escorted by two robust young rams, raced to the castle. "We have a writing utensil that is capable of writing sparkling letters for the King," they declared. Wolves and sheep from far and wide raced to the castle. The sergeants at arms chased repelled the curious throngs of curiosity seekers, and led the ram delegation to the King.
Alter presented the reed to the King. The King asked the eagle for a clean sheet of papyrus, and wrote, "I am a tiger". The black ink remained dull and lackluster on the papyrus. Next, the King wrote, "I am the Lion, King of the island." The letters sparkled in a dazzling illumination. Subsequently, the King signed the wolves' proposal to slaughter the sheep; the letters remained a dull black. Then, the King signed the sheep's refutation of all the wolves' claims. The letters shined like gold and crimson rays of the sunset.
The King signed and sealed his verdict, giving the sheep eternal rights to all of the King's meadows, and banishing the wolves to the depths of the forests forever.
The Moral
The lion King symbolizes Hashem, the wolves are the nations of the world, and the sheep are the Jewish people. The reed is the Tzaddik of the generation, whose life is devoted to the service of Hashem. The Tzaddik clings to truth, and is therefore incapable of anything but the truth. The nations of the world, on the other hand, like the wolves, live according to the dictates of their appetites, and therefore distort the truth according to their own selfish interests. They ask the King to consent to their evil designs, but to no avail. When the King's fountain pen is truth, then everything the King signs is truth as well. For that reason, Hashem often performs wonders by way of the generation's righteous sages.
May Hashem send us Moshiach together with our forefathers and the great tzaddikim, speedily and in our days, amen!

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