Parashat Ki Tisa: Exodus; Chapter 30 Verse 11 – Chapter 34 Verse 35

02/28/2018 12:43:30 PM


General Overview: This week’s Torah portion discusses the census of the Jewish nation, the washbasin of the Tabernacle, the anointing oils for the kohanim and kings, the incense offering, and the Sabbath. The Torah then relates the story of the Golden Calf, G‑d's anger at the Jewish nation, Moshe successfully arguing for Divine forgiveness for the sin, the breaking of the tablets, and the giving of the second tablets.

1st Section: This first section concludes the details of the Mishkan’s construction. The Jewish people are commanded to give the half Shekel toward a national census and the purchasing of the public offerings. The copper washstand (Kiyor) is described along with the ingredients and laws of the anointing oil and the incense (Ketoret). Betzallel, the grandson of Chur and great-grandson of Miriam, is identified as the chief artisan and architect of the Tabernacle (Mishkan). (Note: he was only 13 years old!) The Commandment of Shabbat is given. Its juxtaposition to the details of the Tabernacle provides the Talmud with the source for determining the 39 categories of Melacha prohibited on Shabbat.

2nd Section: The story of the Golden Calf is told. Moshe ascended Sinai on the morning of the 7th of Sivan 2448, and remained 40 days and nights. The 7th didn’t start with a night, so it wasn’t included in the total of 40. Some Jews mistakenly assumed that it was to be included and expected Moshe back on the morning of the 16th of Tamuz. Instead, he returned the morning of the 17th of Tamuz. By midday of the 16th, the Jews were already desperate. Chur attempts to reason with them and is killed. They approach Aaron who attempts to redirect their terror which results in the Golden Calf. Moshe appears the next morning, breaks the Tablets he came down with, marshals the tribe of Levi, and 3000 people are killed. Moshe demands G-d’s forgiveness for the people, but moves his tent (the Ohel Moed) out from the midst of the camp. Yehoshua is proclaimed the main student of Moshe.

3rd & 4th Sections: Moshe requests to understand G-d’s system of justice. He is granted a greater understanding of G-d, more than any other person in history, but is denied the ability to comprehend Divine justice.

5th Section: Moshe is instructed to cut two new Tablets and ascend Sinai. Moshe is taught the secret formula for Teshuva (the Thirteen Names of G-d as He Manifests His Mercy) (34:6) and G-d forgives the Jewish people.

6th Section: G-d establishes a new covenant with the people. He forewarns them against the influences of assimilation and intermarriage and forbids them to make any treaties with the inhabitants of Canaan. The holidays of Pesach, Shavuot, and Succot are reviewed, as well as Shabbat and the basic laws of Kashrut.

7th Section: Moshe remains on Sinai another 40 days and nights and returns on Yom Kippur carrying the second Tablets. The people see that the very being of Moshe had been transformed and that his face radiated with an inner light. Moshe fashions for himself a veil that he would wear at all times, except when receiving a prophecy and when transmitting the word of G-d to the people.

Haftara: Kings 1 Chapter 18 Verses 20 - 39

Haftara Summary: In this week's haftara, Elijah the Prophet demonstrates the worthlessness of the Baal, just as Moses chastised the Israelites for serving the Golden Calf, as discussed in this week's Torah reading.

The background of this week's haftara: King Ahav and Queen Jezebel ruled the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and encouraged the worship of the Baal deity as well as other forms of idolatry. To prove that G‑d alone is in control and provides sustenance, Elijah decreed a drought on the kingdom—no rain fell for three years. When Ahav then accused Elijah of causing hardship for the Israelites, Elijah challenged him to a showdown. He, Elijah, would represent the cause of monotheism, and 850 idolatrous "prophets" would represent their cause. Ahav accepted.

The haftorah begins with Elijah, the Baal prophets, and many spectators gathering atop Mount Carmel. Elijah rebuked the people of Israel, uttering the famous words: "How long will you hop between two ideas? If the L-rd is G‑d, go after Him, and if the Baal, go after him."

Elijah then stated his challenge: "Give us two bulls and let them [the Baal prophets] choose one bull for themselves and cut it up and place it on the wood, but fire they shall not put; and I will prepare one bull, and I will put it on the wood, and fire will I not place. And you will call in the name of your deity, and I will call in the name of the L-rd, and it will be the G‑d that will answer with fire, he is G‑d."

The people agreed to the challenge, and the prophets of the Baal were first. The prophets' entreaties to their god went unanswered. Elijah taunted them: "Call with a loud voice, for you presume that he is a god. [Perhaps] he is talking or he is pursuing [enemies], or maybe he is on a journey; perhaps he is sleeping and will awaken..."

As evening approached, Elijah took center-stage. He built an altar, laid his offering upon it and surrounded it with water. "Lord, the G‑d of Abraham, Isaac and Israel," he declared. "Today let it be known that You are G‑d in Israel and that I am Your servant, and at Your word have I done all these things. Answer me, O L-rd, answer me, and this people shall know that You are the L-rd G‑d..."

A fire immediately descended from heaven and consumed the offering, as well as the altar and the surrounding water. "And all the people saw and fell on their faces, and they said, "The Lord is G‑d, the L-rd is G‑d."

Sun, March 18 2018 2 Nisan 5778