Parsha

For the week ending 26 February 2005 / 17 Adar I 5765

Parshat Ki Tisa

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

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

Insights

Headraiser

"When you raise the head of the Children of Yisrael" (30:12)

Why does the Torahs choose the expression raise the head to mean that Moshe should take a census of the Jewish People?

G-d explained to Moshe that the Jewish People had placed their lives in jeopardy by worshipping the golden calf. The process of counting them by the coins they were to donate would "raise their heads," elevate them spiritually from the depths to which they sunk, and earn them atonement from their sin.

Moshe supposed that such atonement would require a coin of a very large denomination indeed. Perhaps it would be a kikar of silver, the equivalent of three thousand silver coins. If not three thousand silver coins, it might be that G-d would demand a coin worth a hundred silver pieces for each. This would be based on the penalty of one hundred silver pieces as the penalty the Torah prescribes for a man who wrongly defames his wifes virtue. Since the Jewish People defamed G-ds name when they proclaimed "These are your gods, Yisrael," this might be the level of the atonement required.

Alternatively, if not a coin worth a hundred silver coins, Moshe surmised that the coin G-d would stipulate might be the equivalent of fifty silver pieces. For that is the penalty that a seducer must pay, and the Jewish People had made idols in defiance of the commandment "You shall have no other gods!"

At the very least, Moshe conjectured, G-d would demand a coin to the value of thirty shekalim. The owner of a goring ox must pay thirty shekels. By worshipping a calf, the Jewish People had traded G-ds glory for the image of a calf.

In the event, Moshes fears were unfounded. G-d said to him "You need not pay Me coins worth a hundred, or fifty, or even thirty silver pieces. All I ask is that you donate one small coin to the value of a half-shekel."

G-d then took a half-shekel coin from under His Throne of Glory, showing to Moshe its size and shape.

"This is the type of coin they shall give," said G-d.

Those half-shekel coins from the census were melted down and used for the silver sockets, the "adonim", that were the foundation for the walls of the Mishkan. In other words, the Mishkan literally stood on the half-shekalim that the Jewish People donated. They were the new basis of G-ds residing amongst them.

Maybe this is one of the reasons that they were called "adonim." Adon means "lord." It is the root of the word that we say to indicate the ineffable four letter name of G-d. In effect the Jewish People, by contributing those half-shekels, were humbling themselves under the supreme L-rdship of G-d which was the new basis of their closeness with Him.

It doesnt take a million dollars to make G-d our "Adon," just a heart that is as broken and humble as a half-shekel.

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