For the week ending 6 March 2021 / 22 Adar 5781

Parashat 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 and Aharon and his sons. G-d selects Betzalel and Oholiav as master craftsmen for the Mishkan and its vessels.

The Jewish People are commanded to keep the Shabbat, 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 to be delayed, and so they force Aharon to make a golden calf for them to worship. Aharon stalls, trying to delay them. Hashem 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 again to pray for forgiveness for the people, and G-d accepts his prayer. Moshe sets up the Mishkan and G-d's clouds of glory return. Moshe asks G-d to show him the rules by which he conducts the world, but he 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.


No Spare Tie

“…and the people gathered around Aharon and said to him, 'Rise up, make for us gods that will go before us, for this man Moshe who brought us up from Egypt — we do not know what became of him.’” (32:1)

Let me give you, in my opinion, an essential “life-hack” — something that is going to save you a lot of time. It goes like this:

There are two kinds of lost objects: the kind that will eventually turn up, and the kind that is irretrievably lost. Whenever you lose something, don't try to find it. That's just a waste of time. Do the following. Think to yourself, "Do I absolutely need this thing right now? Is there a work-around? Do I absolutely need to wear my pink tie with the little green elephants on it? I know I was really looking forward to wearing it today, but maybe I could just get by, if I really need to, with the yellow one with pink poodles.”

Much, if not most, of the time we can substitute what we want with what we need. Looking for non-essentials is a complete waste of life. Because they will either turn up, one-way-or-another, or they are gone forever.

Life is about distinguishing the essence from the nonsense.

When Moshe failed to appear from Mount Sinai, the Children of Israel made a fatal mistake. They thought they could find a work-around. They thought they could replace their “lost object” — Moshe — with a golden calf.

Nothing could replace Moshe. "There never has risen again in Israel a prophet like Moshe…" (Devarim 24:10)

When it came to Moshe Rabbeinu —– there was no “spare tie.”

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