Commentary on Parashat Ki Tisa
This week at the Jewish Journal, Parashat Ki Tisa is under discussion… Parashat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) – begins with the census of the people of Israel and with further instructions concerning the Tabernacle and the Shabbat. The portion then proceeds to tell the story of the Golden Calf, Moses’ plea to god, the splitting of the Tablets into two, and the giving of the second tablets.
Shmuel: You see the Tabernacle before you and then you go build an idol? It makes no sense.
Rabbi Howard Berman: This text underscores the struggle of our people at that early stage to free themselves from the idolatrous assumptions of the ancient world. It shows the slow, gradual comprehension and embrace of what was really a radical, revolutionary new concept of God: a God that could not be portrayed in pictorial form, who was incorporeal and embodied the spiritual and ethical ideals that Moses was beginning to teach to the people at that formative stage.
“And you, speak to the children of Israel and say: ‘Only keep My Sabbaths! For it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I, the Lord, make you holy.’” –Exodus 31:13
Student at West L.A. College
This chapter begins with God designating Bezalel to supervise the building of the Tabernacle and its beautiful implements. Then, in our verse, we are instructed to keep Shabbat. We just read the Ten Commandments in the Torah portion a few weeks ago, so why do we need to be reminded again to observe Shabbat?
The Tabernacle represents the holiness of space, while Shabbat represents the holiness of time. We need both for enduring relationships, including our relationship with God.
The Torah portion, Ki Tisa, is about the sin of the Golden Calf… would like to believe that I would never have participated in that disastrous spectacle. I would like to think that I am that kind of girl. I would like to think that in any situation, my highest, best, bravest self would guide me, injecting me with the courage to do the right thing, no matter what. I would like to think that this frenzied mob would not test my willpower, but that even if it did, I would easily win that battle. But that would be naive thinking.