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Home » Ki Tisa

Ki Tisa: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on February 17, 2008 – 5:09 amNo Comment | 2,399 views

Sunday: All at Once

Every Jew was required to donate a half shekel, no less and no more, yet the entire half had to be donated at once; intermittent or gradual payments were not accepted. This seems odd. The total sum was not a complete denomination, only a half, yet the payment itself had to be made in one sum, it could not be divided into portions.

There is a wonderful meditation associated with the half shekel. A Jew is merely half of the sum total. The other half is G-d. From the moment of birth, the Jewish baby is incomplete. Only when we are imbued with our souls are we completed.

That we are prepared to die for our beliefs is a product of our conviction that we are incomplete without G-d. We recognize that life without G-d is a half shekel; not complete and not worth living. Now self sacrifice cannot be accomplished incrementally. We cannot die in pieces. In other words, recognizing that we are, but half, drives us to give ourselves wholly, and at once, to our beliefs and to G-d. Likutei Sichos

Monday: Constructive Gossip

Why does the Torah tell the story of the Golden Calf? Would we not be better served by forgetting this shameful episode?

G-d generally abides by the regulations He imposes upon us, including the prohibition against gossip, Lashon Hara. The Torah does not speak negatively of our ancestors unless the story can act as a powerful force for good. In the case of the golden calf, the story demonstrates the power of teshuva, repentance. It inspires us to repent no matter how egregious our sin.  It encourages one to never despair of G-d’s forgiveness because the very G-d, who forgave an entire nation for idol worship, is surely willing to forgive individual sinners when they repent properly. Orach Chayim

Tuesday: Lead Us

The dialogue between Moses and G-d in the third portion of this week’s reading is ambiguous and many commentators attempted to decipher it. The following explanation was advanced by the Malbim.

Moses was unique among prophets. G-d spoke directly to him without the use of an intermediary. In his youth, Moses was an ordinary prophet, G-d spoke to him through an intermediary, but at the burning bush G-d appeared and talked to Moses directly; face to face. His unique prophetic experience was further enhanced at Sinai, but stopped as the nation turned to the golden calf. Moses then pitched his tent outside of the camp and his extraordinary prophecy resumed. Here, in his tent, Moses received a prophecy that was as disappointing as it was elating. G-d agreed to forgive the nation and to lead them to Israel, but G-d would not lead them Himself. In his stead, He would send an angel.

Moses, concerned that should the nation be led by an angel he would have to receive his prophecy through the intermediary of an angel and not wanting to be denied the direct form of prophecy, exclaimed, “If you find me favorable I beg you, speak to me directly so I may know you.” G-d granted Moses’ request and said, “My face shall lead and I shall guide you.” Moses then asked G-d to withdraw the angel and lead the nation directly. It was a plea for forgiveness, “for they (the nation) are yours” i.e. they have repented. G-d replied, “I shall grant your second request as well for you have found favor in my eyes.” Malbim

Wednesday: Divine Space

G-d declared to Moses, “Behold, space is with me.” Our sags taught, “He is the space of the world; whereas the world is not His space.”

Every created being occupies space. We occupy our own space even as we move from spot to spot. We are incapable of vacating or stepping out of the tight parameters that define our space. Another cannot occupy my space just as I cannot occupy another’s space. If others want to sit on my seat they need to wait till I leave it. When I leave my seat to occupy another spot they are able to occupy my previous space, but they cannot occupy my new space.

As we travel through the world oue designated space travels with us. Its parameters fit us snugly; we cannot escape them. We each take up space in the universe, but G-d does not. On the contrary, G-d is the space that the universe takes up. G-d is omnipresent, nothing exists outside of Him. “He is the space of the world, the world is not His space.” Bereshis Rabba

Thursday: Change of Perspective

Moses asked G-d to dwell among the Jews for they are a, “stubborn nation.” Is national intractability a reason for G-d to dwell among the Jews? On the contrary, it indicates that they are likely to sin again.

Every argument has two sides and our view adjusts according to our perspective. When G-d was angered by the Golden calf Moses didn’t raise the subject of Jewish obstinacy. Indeed, that would have induced G-d to punish the Jews. However, when Moses saw that G-d had transferred to a mode of conciliation, he hastened to insulate them against divine wrath in the event of future sin. Know, he said to G-d, that they endowed with a stubborn streak. It is not that they are rebellious it is just that they change slowly. Don’t leave them to the mercy of an angel, lead them yourself. An angel might not be as forgiving toward them, but you, their father and creator, would surely understand and know how to forgive them. Ramban

Friday: True Wonders

G-d replied granted moses’ request (see Thursday’s entry.) and informed him that Moses would now witness great wonders, the likes of which have yet to be visited upon earth. Yet, when we read the Torah we don’t find that G-d performed miracles in the desert that rivalled the wonders he performed in Egypt, at the Reed Sea and at Mount Sinai.

The wonder referred to here was the indwelling of the Shechina (Divine presence) in the tabernacle, which was greater than all the previous miracles combined. The other miracles suspended the laws of physics by the superimposition of Divine will. This miracle integrated the natural with the supernatural. Our sages taught that the Holy Ark, upon which the Shechinah rested, defied all measurement. The Holy Ark measured two and a half cubits in length and the room in which it was placed, measured ten cubits in length. Yet the measure between the side of the ark and the wall of the room was five cubits in each direction.

In other words, the ark measured two and half of cubits, but did not occupy any space at all. G-d does not occupy space (reference Wednesday’s entry), but in this case the ark both occupied and did not occupy space, simultaneously. G-d did not suspend the laws of physics in this instance; He forced them to remain in place, but to conform to the metaphysical. That is a great wonder. Ramban

Shabbat: Rays of Light

After he transcribed the Torah Moses found a drop of ink leftover in his pen. He rubbed this ink into his forehead, which henceforth radiated light. The leftover ink is a metaphor for esoteric portions of Torah that were too deep to transcribe or share with others. When Moses was taught these esoteric secrets his face literally lit up; it radiated rays of light. Ktav Sofer