Weekly Sidra: Ki Tisa (when you lift up)
Torah Portion: Shemot / Exodus 30:1-34:35
Haftorah: Melachim Alef / Kings I 18:1-39
Ki Tisa (כי תשא), the twenty-first reading from the Torah, literally means “when you lift up.” It comes from the first words of the second verse of the reading, which could be literally rendered, “When you lift up the head of the sons of Israel to reckon them” (Shemot / Exodus 30:12). The phrase “lift up the head” is an idiom for taking a head count. The portion begins with instructions for taking a census, finishes up the instructions for making the Mishkan / Tabernacle, reiterates the commandment of Shabbat and then proceeds to tell the story of the egel hazahav / golden calf. The majority of Ki Tisa is concerned with the sin of the golden calf, the breach in the covenant between God and Israel, and how Moshe undertakes to restore that covenant relationship.
Let`s read the aliyot for this week`s Torah portion.
Since parsha Yitro Moshe rabenu has been up on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah for Bnai Yisrael. This parsha, Ki-Tisa, concludes Moshe’s time on the mountain with some more commandments connected with the Mishkan, then tells what happens when Moshe comes down the mountain.
Note: On the Shabbat the Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading. Here are this week`s aliyot:
1st Aliya: This first Aliya concludes the details of the Mishkan’s construction. The Bnai Yisrael are commanded to give the half Shekel toward a national census and the purchasing of the public offerings. The copper washstand, the Kiyor, is described along with the ingredients and laws of the anointing oil and the Ketoret – the incense. Betzallel, the grandson of Chur and great-grandson of Miriam, is identified as the chief artisan and architect of the Mishkan. (Note: he was only 13 yr. old!) The Mitzvah of Shabbat is commanded. Its juxtaposition to the details of the Mishkan.
2nd Aliya: The story of the Golden Calf is told. Moshe ascended Sinai on the morning of Sivan 7, and remained 40 days and nights. The 7th didn’t start with a night, so it wasn’t included in the total of 40. The people of Israel mistakenly assumed that it was to be included and expected Moshe back on the morning of Tamuz 16. Instead, he returned the morning of Tamuz 17. By midday of the 16th, the people of Israel were already desperate. Chur attempts to reason with them and is killed. They approach Aharon who attempts to redirect their terror which results in the Golden Calf. Moshe appears the next morning, breaks the Luchot / tablets, marshals the tribe of Levi, and 3000 people are killed. Moshe demands HaShem’s forgiveness for the people, but moves the Ohel Moed out from the midst of the camp. Yehoshua is proclaimed the main student of Moshe.
3rd & 4th Aliyot: Moshe requests to understand HaShem’s system of justice. He is granted a greater understanding of HaShem than any other person in history, but is denied the ability to comprehend divine justice.
5th Aliya: Moshe is instructed to cut two new Luchot and ascend Sinai. Moshe is taught the secret formula for Teshuva (the Thirteen Names of God as He Manifests His Mercy) (34:6) and God forgives the Bnai Yisrael.
6th Aliya: HaShem establishes a new covenant with the people. He forewarns them against the influences of assimilation and intermarriage and forbids them to make any treaties with the inhabitants of Canaan. The holidays of Pesach, Shevout, and Succot are reviewed, as well as Shabbat and the basic law of Kashrut (kosher laws).
7th Aliya: Moshe remains on Sinai another 40 days and nights and returns on Yom Kippur carrying the second Luchot. The people see that the very being of Moshe had been transformed and that his face radiated with a inner light. Moshe fashions for himself a veil that he would wear at all times, except when receiving a prophecy and when transmitting the word of HaShem to the people.
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