Torah Weekly - Parshat Ki Tisa

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Parshat Ki Tisa

For the week ending 13 Adar I 5760 / 18 & 19 February 2000

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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 Hashem instructs Moshe to use this oil only for dedicating the Mishkan, its vessels, Aharon and his sons. Hashem selects Betzalel 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 Hashem 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. Hashem tells Moshe to return to the people immediately, threatening to destroy everyone and build a new nation from Moshe. When Moshe sees the orgy of idol-worship, he smashes the tablets, and he destroys the golden calf. The tribe of Levi volunteers to punish the transgressors, executing 3,000 men. Moshe ascends the mountain to pray for forgiveness for the people, and Hashem accepts his prayer. Moshe sets up the Mishkan, and Hashem's cloud of glory returns. Moshe asks Hashem to show him the rules by which he conducts the world, but is granted only a small portion of this request. Hashem 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.




    "Hashem said to Moshe, 'Take yourself spices -- stacte, onchya and galbanum...'" (30:34)

    "The Orthodox look down on any Jew who isn't as religious as they are," runs an oft repeated canard. "If you aren't a Torah Jew -- you're nothing," is the jingle trumpeted from the media desks of certain political camps. While these statements serve crass and blatant political agendas, they simply aren't true.

    When I look at a secular Jew, I see a yiddishe panim -- a Jewish face with a neshama, a soul, burning inside. A Jewish face that looks so much like mine; one that reminds me of all those faces staring into the eyes of Nazi photographers, in another black and white portrait cataloguing the destruction of a race.

    Contrary to popular belief the phrase "Love your neighbor as yourself" isn't a Christian concept. It's a verse in our Torah, Vayikra 19, which preceeded Christianity by over 13 centuries. Every Jew is commanded to love every other Jew -- as himself.

    I may totally disagree with my neighbor. I may think him misguided, misinformed and just plain gullible. I may even hate what he stands for. But him? Him I love. I may find his opinions offensive, even dangerous, but when I look at him, I see a fellow Jew. A yiddishe panim.

    On Kol Nidre, at the beginning of the Holiest Day of the Year, the Cantor in his prayers requests permission from G-d for the congregation to pray with those Jews who don't keep the Torah. Why?

    The commandment of the Four Species that we perform on Succot symbolizes four kinds of Jew: The Etrog which has both taste and smell stands for the Jew who has both Torah and good deeds. The Lulav -- the palm branch -- symbolizes the Jew who has Torah but not good deeds. Like the date tree, he has taste (the dates) but no smell. The Hadass (myrtle) smells beautiful, but it has no edible fruit. It stands for the Jew who has good deeds, but no Torah. And the Arava -- the willow -- has neither taste nor smell. It represents the Jew who has neither Torah nor good deeds. The mitzva of the four species can only be performed with all four. If any one is missing, the mitzva is lost.

    In this week's parsha, the Torah lists the eleven ingredients of the ketoret -- the mixture of spices that was an essential part of the service of the Holy Temple. If the person who formulated the mixture omitted one of the ingredients, he was liable for the death penalty. Every ingredient was vital -- without one of the ingredients there was no incense service. One of the spices in the ketoret was chelbona (galbanum). Its smell was unpleasant. Yet without it, the incense was invalid.

    A yid is a yid. His ideas and his actions may not "smell" the way I would like, he may be as devoid of mitzvot and good deeds as a willow is devoid of taste and smell -- but without him, it's not Kol Nidre. Without him the Jewish People is incomplete.

    • Rashi, Yalkut Shimoni


    Melachim I 18:1 - 39


    At Yom Kippur's end we repeat the closing words from this week's Haftarah:

    "Hashem; He is G-d."

    Like this week's Parsha, which depicts Israel wavering on the brink of idol worship, the Haftarah tells of one of the worst kings to rule Israel, Achav, and his idolatrous queen Izavel. She was a non-Jew who worshipped idols, murdered righteous prophets and filled the palace with idols.

    At risk to his life, the prophet Eliyahu successfully challenged Achav and Izavel. Eliyahu did this by challenging the idolatrous prophets of ba'al to a demonstration on Mount Carmel to expose their fraudulent god. When a miracle happened and Israel saw the truth, they shouted in unison "Hashem; He is G-d."

    Love of the Land
    Selections from classical Torah sources
    which express the special relationship between
    the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael


    This mountain in the Valley of Jezreel (Emek Yizra'el) is where King Saul and his son Yonatan were slain in battle by the Philistines, leading a mournful David to lament "how the mighty have fallen" and to pronounce a curse that "no dew nor rain should descend upon the hills of Gilboa." (Shmuel II 1:19-21)

    The mountain itself indeed remains bare, but not far away is a village and some kibbutzim whose prosperity accentuates the impact of David's historical curse on Gilboa.

    Love of the Land Archives

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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