motzei Shabbos: Ki Tisa 5781

B”H

Motzei Shabbos: parashas KI Tisa – Wholeness

“This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel as an offering to the L-RD.” – Exodus 30:13

The census characterizes a concept, in regard to identity, inasmuch that a half shekel denotes a lack, in and of itself, since it is only half of the whole; thus, each Israelite in giving a half shekel in order to be included in the census taken for K’lal Yisrael, must needs to acknowledge his or her deficiencies. Only by making up for the difference between our real self, and our ideal self, can we become whole. In this specific case, regarding the census, as an atonement for the sin of the golden calf, the half shekel atones for the decreased spiritual level of the soul that occurred as a result of this sin.

R’Bachya speaks of the “dual-duty of the Jew to look after both his body and his soul,” thus implying the need to be aware of both spiritual as well as material needs; furthermore, within the context of the half shekel offered as an atonement for the individual souls of Israel, as recompense for the transgression of the eigel – golden calf – the half shekel represents the need to make up the difference in what each soul spiritually lacked at the time of that debacle. In fact, there was an overindulgence of material pleasures committed along with the idolatry.

Only three thousand were executed as those who were brazen enough not to stand down from their revely, when Moses returned; yet, all 600,000 souls, were guilty, inasmuch that they did not attempt to prevent the idolatry. This is akin to the bystander of evil, who permits bad things to happen, not exactly through participation of that evil; rather, through not speaking out against the evil. And, so all the people needed to make an atonement for the souls, that had become deficient on a spiritual level; having been complicit, their spiritual status was decreased, and could only be elevated again through the census –  tisa es rosh (to lift up the head), or elevate the soul.

parashas Ki Tisa 5781 – Mesiras Nefesh

“Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written.’” – Exodus 32:32, JPS 1917 Tanach

“Moses refers to the ‘Book of life’ in which every human being is inscribed on Rosh Hashanah if he was found deserving on the basis of his past record.” – Chizkuni on Exodus 32:32; sefaria.org

After the debacle of the golden calf, Moses pleaded with H’Shem on behalf of B’nei yisrael, saying, “Alas, this people is guilty of a great sin in making for themselves a god of gold” (32:31, JPS). In asking of H’Shem to forgive the sin of the people, Moses offers to have his name written out of the Book of Life. This is an unmistakable gesture of mesiras hanefesh (self-sacrifice), that Moshe offers on behalf of B’nei Yisrael. Yet, G-d declines the offer, stating in what appears to be an impromptu decree for the ages: “He who has sinned against Me, him only will I erase from My record” (Exodus 32:33, JPS).

Nevertheless, the immediate punishment, concerning H’Shem’s intent to destroy this generation, and start over again with Moses had already been averted through Moshe’s prayer. Now, forgiveness does not seem to be sanctioned; rather, a newly mentioned punishment is delayed, “when I make an accounting, I will bring them to account for their sins.” (Exodus 33:34, JPS). After this statement, the Torah records that a plague is sent amongst the people. So, the question remains, when will H’Shem make an accounting, thereby bringing them to account for their sins? The question continues to ring, like a bell of proclamation.

parashas Ki Tisa 5781

shiur Ki Tisa 5781 – Incense and Avodah

parashas Ki Tisa 5781

B”H

shiur for parashas Ki Tisa 5781

“H’Shem said to Moses: Take for yourself – spices – stacte, onycha, and galbanum – spices and pure frankincense.”  – Exodus 30:34

The incense was offered every day in the morning, and in the afternoon.  The incense fragrance connotes the understanding that we are to serve G-d in a pleasing manner; inasmuch that we are His servants, it is our responsibility to serve Him.  Yet, He would like us to develop the inward desire to serve Him.  This is reflected in the two ways of obeying His commandments – out of fear, and out of love.

To observe His commandments out of fear, demands acknowledgment of H’Shem as “the L-rd thy G-d who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 20:2).  In and of itself, this is the first commandment, inasmuch that we are obligated to acknowledge H’Shem as sovereign; once we accept His authority, then the commandments follow as authorative statements; i.e., divine decrees (Baal Halachos Gedolos).  

Yet, some of us are still plagued by our own personal Mitzraim (Egypt): our limitations that prevent us from excelling in our service (avodah) to H’Shem. Others are floundering along the way, in danger of being overcome by Amalek (symbolic of doubt), underappreciating the miracles that H’Shem has done for us, thereby permitting our desire for Him to “cool” down. On Purim, we recall the hidden miracle – how we were rescued from Haman, a descendent of Agag, an Amelekite; and, how we were victorious against the Amalekites who rose up against us within the 127 provinces of King Ahasueros.

Yet, do we recognize the miracles every day in our own lives?  The potential for us to experience His shefa (everflowing grace) is always offered to us when we look towards Him in our struggles.  We should be thankful to Him for these blessings.  Additionally, we should praise Him every day, for He has given us the breath of life; each and every day is an opportunity to lift our voices to Him in appreciation, thanking Him for all that He has given us. 

Lifting up our hearts to Him will help us to develop ahavah (love) for Him. In serving Him out of love, we are commanded to love him with an undivided heart (Sifrei), as is written, “thou shalt love H’Shem thy G-d with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  Moreover, Maimonides writes, “Once a person loves G-d appropriately, he will fulfill the commandments out of love” (Hilchut Teshuva 10:2).

Yet, both love and fear are necessary, like the wings of an eagle; for without fear (awe, reverence, respect), there is not the proper attitude conveyed towards Him.  Without love, we may not be able to fly towards Him, higher and higher on our journey; yet, we continue climbing, as it is, for we will reach Him with dveykus: constant clinging to His Essence.

dvar Ki Tisa 5781 – the Remedy Prevails

parashas Ki Tisa 5781

B”H

dvar for parashas Ki Tisa 5781

“H’Shem plagued the people, because they made the calf.”

– Exodus 32:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights; during this time, H’Shem spoke with Moses – according to some commentators, Moses received the instruction for the Mishkan at this time. It is mentioned in the Talmud, that H’Shem creates the cure before the ailment. Here, the blueprints for the Mishkan served as the remedy to what had not yet occurred – the idolatry of the golden calf. H’Shem prepared the cure (Mishkan) before the sickness (eigel).

What is the malaise of idolatry? To place anything in our lives above our commitment to H’Shem. This raises up the created above the Creator, G-d forbid. Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven (Talmud). Therefore, our conscious effort to make G-d most important in our lives through yiras H’Shem (reverence towards G-d) is incumbent upon us; in effect, we are called upon to crown Him as King – sovereign over every aspect of our lives.

In these challenging days, we also look for the remedy to the various ailments of our lives; yet, even when there seems to be little hope on the horizon, we must maintain a sense of bechirah (trust) in H’Shem, that He has already designated, the time, place, and remedy for each of us to continue on the derech (path) towards righteousness, drawing closer to Him with every step along the way.

Yet, the path is narrow, there are many distractions along the way. It was only when Moshe sought out the forgiveness of H’Shem, on behalf of B’nei Yisrael, that he was able to receive the second set of tablets. We are also given second chances in our lives; however, if we do not even realize the need to improve upon our ways, we may be given a wake up call.

The Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the wilderness) permitted B’nei Yisrael to focus on avodas (worship of H’Shem); we need to do the same, in a manner of speaking, and be ever mindful of H’Shem’s Presence in our lives; then, we can devote our mitzvoth (good deeds) to Him. “I have set the L-RD always before me; surely He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalms 16:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).

Ki Tisa – A Remedy Prepared

B”H

Shiur for parashas Ki Tisa 5780
17 Adar 5780 (March 13, 2020)

H’Shem plagued the people, because they made the calf. ” – Exodus 32:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days and forty nights; during this time, H’Shem spoke with Moses – according to some commentators, Moses received the instruction for the Mishkan at this time. It is mentioned in the Talmud, that H’Shem creates the cure before the ailment. Here, the blueprints for the Mishkan served as the remedy to what had not yet occurred – the idolatry of the golden calf. H’Shem prepared the cure before the sickness.

What is the malaise of idolatry? To place anything in our lives above our commitment to H’Shem. This raises up the created above the Creator, G-d forbid. Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven (Talmud). Therefore, our conscious effort to make G-d most important in our lives is up to us; in effect, we are called upon to crown Him as King – sovereign over every aspect of our lives.

In these challenging days, we also look for the remedy to the various ailments of our lives; yet, even when there seems to be no hope on the horizon, we must maintain a sense of bechirah (trust) in H’Shem, that He has already designated, the time, place, and remedy for each of us to continue on the derech (path) towards righteous.

Yet, the path is narrow, there are many distractions along the way. It was only when Moshe sought out the forgiveness of H’Shem, on behalf of B’nei Yisrael, that he was able to receive the second set of tablets. We are also given second chances in our lives; however, if we do not even realise the need to change our ways, we may be given a wake up call.

The Mishkan (portable tabernacle in the wilderness) permitted B’nei Yisrael to focus on worshipping H’Shem; we need to do the same, in a manner of speaking, and be ever mindful of H’Shem’s Presence. “I have set the L-RD always before me; surely He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved” (Psalms 16:8, JPS 1917 Tanach).