Torah Weekly

For the week ending 27 February 2016 / 18 Adar I 5776

Parshat Ki Tisa

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Moshe conducts a census by counting each silver half-shekel donated by all men age twenty and over. Moshe is commanded to make a copper laver for the Mishkan. The women donate the necessary metal. The formula of the anointing oil is specified, and G-d instructs Moshe to use this oil only for dedicating the Mishkan, its vessels, Aharon and his sons. G-d selects Bezalel and Oholiav as master craftsmen for the Mishkan and its vessels. The Jewish People are commanded to keep the Sabbath as an eternal sign that G-d made the world. Moshe receives the two Tablets of Testimony on which are written the Ten Commandments. The mixed multitude who left Egypt with the Jewish People panic when Moshe's descent seems delayed, and force Aharon to make a golden calf for them to worship. Aharon stalls, trying to delay them. G-d tells Moshe to return to the people immediately, threatening to destroy everyone and build a new nation from Moshe. When Moshe sees the camp of idol-worship he smashes the tablets and destroys the golden calf. The sons of Levi volunteer to punish the transgressors, executing 3,000 men. Moshe ascends the mountain to pray for forgiveness for the people, and G-d accepts his prayer. Moshe sets up the Mishkan and G-d's cloud of glory returns. Moshe asks G-d to show him the rules by which he conducts the world, but is granted only a small portion of this request. G-d tells Moshe to hew new tablets and reveals to him the text of the prayer that will invoke Divine mercy. Idol worship, intermarriage and the combination of milk and meat are prohibited. The laws of Pesach, the first-born, the first-fruits, Shabbat, Shavuot and Succot are taught. When Moshe descends with the second set of tablets, his face is luminous as a result of contact with the Divine.


The Name Escapes Me

“Moshe pleaded before G-d…Repent from Your flaring anger and reconsider…Remember for the sake of Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yisrael, Your servants… and You told them ‘I shall increase your offspring like the stars of the heaven’.” (32:11-13)

When the Torah speaks of the Patriarchs, the appellation of choice is nearly always, “Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.” Why here does the Torah use the name “Yisrael” instead of the nearly ubiquitous “Yaakov?”

When Moshe was trying to appease G-d after the incident of the golden calf, he claimed that G-d could not annihilate the Jewish People, because He had already promised the Patriarchs that their seed would become a great nation. Gd rejoined that He would fulfill His promise to them by making Moshe’s offspring a great nation instead. To which Moshe replied that when G-d changed Yaakov’s name to Yisrael, at that same time He promised to make him “a nation and a congregation of nations,” (Ber. 35:11). The spiritual masters explain that “a nation” refers to Binyamin who was yet to be born, and “a congregation of nations” means Menashe and Ephraim, who in the future would come from Yosef.

Had G-d destroyed the Jewish People (G-d forbid), and fulfilled His promise to the Patriarchs through the offspring of Moshe, He would have still left unfulfilled His promise about the tribe of Binyamin and the tribe of Yosef, from which came Menashe and Ephraim. For this reason Gd could not rebuild the Jewish People from Moshe’s descendants.

This is why Moshe, at this crucial moment in Jewish history, mentioned the name “Yisrael”, to “remind” Gd of the pledge He swore to Yaakov at the time He changed his name to “Yisrael”.

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