Torah Reflections; Lessons in the weekly Torah portion and topics of Judaism, spirituality, observance and tradition

Torah Reflections from Torah Readers

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Parashat Ki Tisa

For the week of Sat 11th Mar 2023 - י״ח בַּאֲדָר תשפ״ג
Shabbat Parah
Parashat Ki Tisa

We don't count Jews

The Jewsish population of the world is such a small percentage that its not even a statistical error in the Chinese census. We don’t count Jews, so how do we know our true strength?

Did you know that...

In the portion of Ki Tissa, following the events of the golden calf, three times God tells Moses that he will destroy the people and abandon them because they are a stiff necked people. However, in arguing for saving them Moses uses the very same reason for saving them - a stiff-necked people - as God did for abandoning them.

"If I have found favor in your eyes, my Lord, may my Lord go among us, because it is a stiff-necked people, and forgive our wickedness and our sin and take us as your inheritance."

How is it possible for Moses to invoke the people's stubbornness as a reason for saving them?

The answer was to be provided long into the future. They are stubborn people who took their time to accept God but once they did they stubbornly defended their God with all their heart, with all their soul - with their lives throughout history. Their stubborness became their defense of God. Jews remained Jews in the face of extermination, pogroms, assimilation, expulsions, regular attacks on their communities. They are stubborn in their faith and their defense of the faith.

This is what Moses saw when he pleaded with God to save the Israelites - for right now they are stiff-necked, but in the future, they will use that same stubbornness to defend God  even in the face of death.


Parasha Summary

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This week's portion details the events prior and immediately following the episode of the Golden Calf and its repercussions.

The name of the Parshah, "Ki Tisa," means "When you take" and it is found in Exodus 30:11.


The people of Israel are told to each contribute exactly half a shekel of silver to the Sanctuary. Instructions are also given regarding the making of the Sanctuary’s water basin, anointing oil and incense. “Wise-hearted” artisans Betzalel and Aholiav are placed in charge of the Sanctuary’s construction, and the people are once again commanded to keep the Shabbat.


When Moses does not return when expected from Mount Sinai, the people make a golden calf and worship it. God proposes to destroy the errant nation, but Moses intercedes on their behalf. Moses descends from the mountain carrying the tablets of the testimony engraved with the Ten Commandments; seeing the people dancing about their idol, he breaks the tablets, destroys the golden calf, and has the primary culprits put to death. He then returns to God to say: “If You do not forgive them, blot me out from the book that You have written.”

God forgives, but says that the effect of their sin will be felt for many generations. At first God proposes to send His angel along with them, but Moses insists that God Himself accompany His people to the promised land.

Moses prepares a new set of tablets and once more ascends the mountain, where God reinscribes the covenant on these second tablets. On the mountain, Moses is also granted a vision of the divine thirteen attributes of mercy. So radiant is Moses’ face upon his return, that he must cover it with a veil, which he removes only to speak with God and to teach His laws to the people.

Second Opinion

Opinions, Essays, Cultural Observances

Machatzit haShekel

It all begins with the mitzvah of the half-shekel that was given by all adult Israelite , to pay for their daily sacrifice. Everyone, poor or rich must give the same amount, but why the same amount?

The Last Word

Social Religous, Cultural and Political Commentary

Shabbat; the antidote to the Golden Calf syndrome

A house is four walls, but a home is where we build memories, thus say Jonathan and Drew Scott on their HGTV show “Property Brothers”. What happens when we no longer think of a house as home but start thinking of it as an investment opportunity? What happens when consumerism overtakes our values and becomes our Golden Calf?
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