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

Jacob Artson:

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.

Three New Podcasts

Just in time for the weekend, three new Jewish Journal podcast to listen to.

David Suissa: The Jewish world loves you. Why do you think that is?

Jay Leno: When you make a friend, you make a friend for life. A lot of performers are asked to play in Israel and just accept the gig. Then someone says, “Hey you shouldn’t go there,” and they cancel. I don’t get that. Everybody around Israel can lose ten or fifteen times and it’s not the end of the world. Israel can only lose once. And then it’s over. I don’t pretend to understand all the issues but I think in life you have to pick sides.

“Being pro-Israeli is already hard enough. Doing it on social media is another story. It’s more than an uphill battle, more than bearing the brunt of the mainstream media, you can even say that it’s social media suicide. This is the story of a few brave souls, a few brave accounts, who couldn’t stand the fake news about Israel and the IDF and decided to do something about it.”

Shmuel Rosner: Trump’s peace plan will soon be revealed. What are the chances that it succeeds?

Michael Herzog: We’ve been waiting for this plan for two years now. This waiting mode has had a paralyzing impact on the parties themselves. Rather than initiating, we’ve been waiting for Trump’s peace plan… but this plan, whatever is in it, is unlikely to lead the parties to negotiations.

Shmuel Rosner: You think that Israel will say yes and the Palestinians will say no?

Michael Herzog: I think that the Israeli PM will say yes. I think it will be difficult to say no. And Abu Mazen has already said no.

Three Weekend Reads

In case you missed them! Three great reads from the past week:

Conservative media is filled with I-told-you-sos from skeptics who never believed Smollett’s account, while many liberal commenters are lamenting that the actor’s mendacity will make it more difficult for real stories of anti-black and anti-gay violence to be given proper credence. I believe hate crimes are real and on the rise. Yet I was skeptical of Smollett. Why? Because his story was too perfect.

The greatest mistake Europeans can make is to believe that their biggest problem is Donald Trump. To be fair, it’s an easy error to make. In the long annals of American diplomacy, there’s no previous instance of an American president treating close allies with anything approaching the Trumpian mix of critique and contempt.

But it’s not only Mr. Trump and his supporters whose attitudes should worry Europe. Some of Europe’s closest friends are also increasingly discouraged.

It can be tempting to think that there’s no morally decent way to accumulate that much wealth. And it’s true that scads of the filthy rich got that way through theft, exploitation and the subtler corruption of anti-competitive rules in politically rigged markets. (You may have heard of Donald Trump.)

Three Jewish Weekend Reads

Three great reads from the Jewish Journal and beyond to enjoy over the weekend!

Orthodox, Conservative and Reform embrace the fundamental principle that Judaism is a work in progress. All three movements originated in Germany in the early 19th century as a response to the emancipation of the Jewish people in the Western world, and they differ only in how much or how little they are willing to change in Jewish belief and practice. Orthodoxy is generally perceived as having changed the least, Reform is perceived as having changed a lot, and Conservative Judaism, like Goldilocks, appears to prefer an approach that falls somewhere in between.

“Maisel” seems intent on reminding viewers of its Jewishness at every turn. Perhaps this is because, at its heart, it lacks a Jewish bite and a Jewish eye.

The characters, like those on “Gilmore Girls,” are quirky more than they are neurotic. The difference is that quirks are endearing. Neuroses, like those George Costanza has, are heartbreaking.

Growing up, I used to think anti-Semitism was like the Black Death: tragic, nightmarish, and historic. It had wiped out millions of people. It was theoretically terrifying. But only occasional outbreaks in poor and faraway countries remained. It had ruined the life of my grandmother but it would not be part of mine.

But now I realize anti-Semitism is actually like the flu: uncomfortable, sickly, occasionally deadly, but constantly with us.

Today’s Hot Issues

Commentary on Parashat Ki Tisa Three New Podcasts Three Weekend Reads Three Jewish Weekend Reads