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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Kitisa

Posted by rabbiart on April 21, 2008

Torah Reading: Shemot 30:11 to 34:35. Haftorah Reading: 1 Kings 18:1-39

This second to last parshah in Sefer Shmot begins with a shekel collection, describes some recipes, puts Bezalel and Oholiab in charge of making the Ohel Mo’ed, and repeats the charge for observing Shabbat. It climaxes with Hashem giving Moshe the shnei luchot edut (two tables of testimony). No sooner does this happen then the people, gathered at the foot of the mountain, make and worship the egel hazahav (the golden calf). HaShem is ready to destroy the people, but Moshe persuades him to reconsider. Moshe descends, grinds the calf to powder, throws the powder in water, and makes the Israelites drink. Strangely, Moshe then sends the Levites running with swords through the camp killing brother, companion and neighbor.

Moshe enters the Ohel Mo’ed (Tent of Meeting), the cloud descends, and Moshe has an intimate conversation with HaShem. Moshe begs for and is granted the right to see HaShem, although only from the back. He goes back up the mountain and receives a replacement set of tablets. He is transformed by the experience, his faith forever radiating so that he wears a veil when among the Israelites and not proclaiming commandments.

There is so much to consider in this parshah. The Golden Calf is a fascinating and compelling story. How could a people who witnessed the deliverance from Egypt and the revelation at Sinai backslide so soon and so easily? Perhaps, because unlike Moshe, they had no transformative experience with HaShem. In our parshah Moshe asks for what we all seek at some point in our life; a sense of the presence of HaShem. We can’t have the experience that was granted Moshe; to journey up the mountain not once but twice and be in a conversation with the divine. One interpretation of Moshe in the cleft of the rock is that he sees only the aftermath of HaShem moving in the world. After his experience, the Israelites can see in his face that he has been transformed. Perhaps the way we experience HaShem in our lives is by looking carefully and deeply into the faces of our friends and our teachers. By sensing the presence of HaShem in their lives, we can invite HaShem into our own.

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