Blog Ki Tissa, Adar 1 18 5779 בלוג כִּי תִשָּׂא,י”ח אדר א’ תשע”ט

The portion Ki Tissa begins with the half shekel being given equally by the rich and the poor. Why only half and not a whole shekel? The only way to be whole is to have the Presence of the Creator in us. This portion can be either the most difficult to understand or the simplest, depending on where you are in your life. If you are one of those who prefer to accumulate vast amounts of knowledge to puff up your brain, then it can be very complicated for you. If, however you truly want to have a relationship with the Creator where you are humbled in His Presence and you understand that it is a challenge to live the simple teaching as you do, then you can grow. My challenge to you is, have your given your half-shekel so that the Creator will make you whole by giving His part of the shekel. Have you taken responsibility for where you are in your life or are you making excuses insisting that it was or is someone else’s fault that you are in that situation?

Ki Tissa continues to develop the construction of the Mishkan, the Sanctuary. Please keep in mind that this sanctuary is not the same as the Tent of Meeting. Moses pitched his tent (the Ochel Moed) outside the camp, which was the temporary place where Moshe consulted with the Boreh Olam. In Chapter 32 there is a break from the Mishkan in which we read about a terrible moment in Israel’s history – their sin of the golden calf incident. They were at the point where they might have disappeared as a nation. If that happened, where would we be today?

I dislike when I read how our sages blame the erev rav (mix multitude) for the mistakes of our people. This is passing the buck. One of the most important elements of the Torah is that it is bluntly honest about who we are as human beings. It speaks about our heroes of the faith as they are, without being whitewashed. That is what differentiates us from other religions who fabricate their leaders as being pure, innocent and sinless. In the Torah what makes our leaders great is how they deal with their shortcomings.

I listened to one rabbi blame the erev rav for the golden calf, that it was the fault of those Egyptians who had left with us. We need instead, to look at ourselves first before blaming others for what happens to us. Our Rabbi Yeshua clearly told us to take the log out of our own eye before trying to remove the speck from someone else’s eye. Our rabbis continually make excuses for what Aaron and Israel did, however the Creator was clear when He told Moshe to hurry down the mountain in order to see how they were “corrupting” themselves. The Hebrew word is the same word used when Ishmael was “fooling around” with little Isaac that got Sarah so upset and later when Isaac was “playing” with Rebekah showing King Abimelech that they were more than brother and sister.

Moshe went to his brother Aaron who he left in charge and asked him what he had done. Although it is clearly written that Aaron asked for them to bring him their gold jewelry, he told Moshe that the people brought him their gold, that he threw it into the fire and poof, out jumped the calf! Why then would the Creator still give the position of Cohen HaGadol, High Priest to Aaron? I like this example: if you owe someone $20 and they tell you not to worry about paying it back; you are happy but if you owed that person $1,000,000 while you are up to your neck in debt and you are told, forget it, don’t worry about paying it back, it’s a gift. Then they tell you, in the same way that I have helped you, go and help others. Which would make you more grateful? Knowing how much the Creator had forgiven him, Aaron would then become an excellent High Priest to the people. Later on, we will see what a difficult situation he has to go through with his two eldest sons. He dedicated his life because he was eternally grateful to the Creator who gave him such an important role in spite of what he did.

Next, we watch how Moshe and the Creator banter back and forth about to whom the people Israel belonged. Were they Moshe’s people or the Creator’s? Up to that moment, Moshe had not appropriated them as his own; he was simply following orders. Finally, using logic Moshe, intervened for them after the Creator told him that He would destroy these people and bring him a new people as He did with Noah. Moshe then begged the Creator to blot his name out of the Book of Life in their place. The Creator’s response to Moshe resounds to this day, “Those who have sinned against me are the ones I shall blot out of my book.” Ex. 32:32-33. That principle of the Torah is contrary to those religions that teach, “don’t worry just have faith, believe and someone else will pay for your sins”. It is easy to pass the buck to someone else but throughout the Scriptures we are taught that each of us alone is responsible for his/her own actions and behavior.

For this community to continue to grow, we must each examine our own responsibility toward it. How many of you have made this place your own instead of it being simply a place you attend on Shabbat? If you are here only because of what you can receive and give back very little, you are in the wrong place. Showing up means that you are one of us and that you are as responsible for its upkeep and growth as the rest. It is always in giving that we receive.

‫       Ranebi  רנב”י

edited by Peggy Pardo