Thursday, February 24, 2005

II-9 Ki Thisa A Golden Opportunity

24 Febr II-9 Ki Thisa A Golden Opportunity

Torah: Ex 30:11-34:35
Haftorah: 1Kgs 18:1-39


1. Ex 30:11-31:17
2. Ex 31:18-33:11
3. Ex 33:12-33:16
4. Ex 33:17:33:23
5. Ex 34:1-9
6. Ex 34:10-26
7. Ex 34:27-35


The instructions for the Mishkan and priestly garments hve been given in Terumah and Tetzaveh. Moses returns up the mountain for another Torah Training Seminar, but is absent thirty nine days. The natives are restless. Children without a leader, they turn to Aaron, second-n-command, for creating the Golden Calf. Moses on the mountaintop gets a directive to return. Seeing the ongoing festivities, he breaks the tablets before confronting the cuprits. later he confronts the ire of God and argues for his people. Ki Tissa includes the instructions for incense, the laver, the Law of the Shekel and continuation of Terumah and Tetzaveh in ritual worship.


When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron and said to him, "Come make us a god who shall go before us..." Ex 32:1

Have mercy upon me, O God
as befits your faithfulness;
in keeping with your abundant compassion,
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throroughly of my transgressions
and purify me of my sin.
Ps 51:1-2


There are three major interpretations of the three chapters. Nachmanides follows the sequence of the Torah that the instructions of Mishkan making and priestly garments were given before the incident of the Golden Calf, just as Terumah and Tetzaveh come before Ki Tisa. Rashi follows the midrash Tanhuma, saying that the instructions for Mishkan making and prietly garments came after the Golden Calf Event and their execution was a form of atonement for idolatry. The third interpretation comes from the Zohar which says that the instructions were given previous to the Golden Calf Event, but the execution afterwards. Yanki Tauber explains these three interpretations in Good as Gold below. The three interpretations symbolize three different types of people who come before God.

The first type of person is the tzaddik, the perfectly righteous person who keeps all 613 mitzvot and is enlightening all around through his holy life. Through him, the mundane components of life can be transformed into the divine. Whatever is lowly on this world, becomes holy to him.

The second type is the baal teshuvah—the penitent. He has a good intent. Starts off with good foundation, ground rules and on the right foot, but somewhere, he makes a wrong turn and his life starts heading downhill rather than up the mountain. He's the Pinocchio at the bottom of the sea, the person who has become an ass in the circus in life, but repents of his foolishness. He's one of the people who was involved in making the Golden Calf. His values changed, instead of being a transcendentalist who saw God in all things, he came to see gold as God. When he goes to make his mishkan, it is internal with the conversion within his heart. His own life changes as he returns to God.

The third type is the rasha-- okay, the bad guy, the one who plots about devious things and buries his sins with a cement block on the bottom of a pond. We see such a person as a social outcast, the worst, the despicable, the hopeless, the sinner, the man with the black heart, the tax collector, the rent collector, etc. We all know the guy, but none of us ever admits to being friends with him or inviting him in for a cup of coffee or tea. We shun the guy in daylight and whisper about his bad deeds at night; yet hang on—even he has an opportunity for making a mishkan, for in every small deed of good he does, God enters into them, creating a partnership with him, thus creating a little mishkan in the narrow and tight places of his heart and life.

But in the later two cases, something important happens. The giving of Torah on Mt Sinai is compared to the creation of Adam and Eve within the Garden. At Sinai, the Israelites were reborn, fresh as a newborn babe without an ounce of sin in their lives. But it seems that man has a tendency to be wayward. The days pass, and the fatherless children, a few weeks out of slavedom of Egypt get antsy. They need something to occupy their time and want a god to go before them. God directs Moses' attention to the ongoing Golden Calf Event at the foot of the mountain, "They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I have enjoined them... This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt." (Ex 32:8-9)

Caught on the defensive Moses argues like Abraham before him. Midrash says that he had many points to score. First the instructions were given in the singular, "you" not plural, so maybe they only applied to Moses, but not to the Israelites. Second, what would the Egyptians say when they heard about the end of the Israelites? Yahoo! Then what about all those promises from the past—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Wasn't the that the purpose of the original mission to save the people so that they could be as numerous of the stars. God trained Moses, so he should have expected a fast talker. If on the initial meeting by the burning bush, Moses argued for seven days, he'd probably had plenty more argument inside of him to protect the people he'd led.

But when Moses descended from the mountain and saw the dancing about the Golden Calf and the crazy celebrations, he smashed the tablets against the the ground. Midrash explains that actually Moses was a kind of marriage-broker, making shidduch. He was bringing the contract down to the bride who was unsuitable. What do you do to an unsigned contract? You tear it up and go back to the negotiating table—uh, mountaintop Torah Training Session. So Moses destroyed the tablets, creating a new opportunity. How many times do you anything right on the first try? Mistakes pave the path to perfection.

So another perspective is that sin is really the golden opportunity for change. Whenever we go astray, God awaits our return.


You shall not make for yourself sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above or in the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them, or serve them. For I the Lord your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children of the third and fourth generations of those who reject Me; but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments. II-5 Yisro Exodus 20:4-6

Rev Samuel Rapaport, Tales and Maxims from the Midrash, Exodus Rabbah
"Moses, in pleading for the Israelites against their projected destruction for making the golden calf, had recourse to all sorts of, excuses in order to avert the threatened punishment. See page 107-108 Exodus Rabbah 43 -44


Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green, Dvar Torah, Ki Thissa 5757
general overview of parasha

Yanki Tauber, Ki Thissa: Tammuz 16- The Day Before
"When G-d commands to construct a material receptacle for His presence, it becomes a holy, G-dly object; when man chooses a material representation of the Divine presence, this is idolatry--a detraction from, rather than an affirmation of, the truth that "There is none else besides Him."

Yanki Tauber, Ki Tissa: Sin and Sanctity
on overview of chronology of Exodus

Yanki Tauber, Ki Tissa: What is Sin

Rabbi Aron Tendler, Rabbi's Notebook, Ki Tissa: Moshe Outshines the Dream Team! 5759

Rav Frand If One Does Not Own Land, He Need Not Go 'Up' for the Festival
The Chofetz Chaim & Rav Shimon Schwab: A Tale of Two Grandfathers
This is a true story involving the Chofetz Chaim (1838-1933) and Rav Shimon Schwab (1908-1995).


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