• Dvar for Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

    This week’s Parsha, Ki Tisa, includes the unfortunate sin of the Golden calf, and includes Moshe’s negotiations on the Jews’ behalf. While there are many things one can learn about the art of negotiations, what seems out of place is that after things are smoothed over and G-d is appeased, Moshe asks to see G-d’s presence (and was denied) (33:18). While there are varying explanations as to what Moshe really wanted to see (from G-d’s attributes to His essence), why would Moshe ask such a question right after G-d had gotten so angry that he threatened to destroy the world?

    One possible answer lies in the very nature of struggle and challenge. When we are faced with a challenge, whether we overcome it or succumb to it, the most valuable aspect of the challenge is the “we”. Not if, but when a couple, a family, a community, a people is faced with a challenge, they naturally become more attached to each other, and grow more cohesive. This is often the point of life’s challenges, although this is frequently overlooked. Moshe worked out a reprieve for the Jews with G-d, and as a result they became close enough that Moshe thought he had a chance to see G-d’s essence, and although he was denied his request, Moshe was granted other insight. We too can gain insight into one another, as long as we focus on each other when faced with life’s challenges.

  • Dvar for Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

    Rav Aron Tendler explains that in this week’s Parsha, Ki Tisa, Moshe confronted his greatest challenge as teacher and leader of the Jewish people. His nation and children were threatened with extinction for building a golden calf to worship, and all the evidence pointed to the Chosen People’s intentional betrayal of G-d. What possible defense could he have offered on behalf of his nation?

    The Gemara in Berachot 32a explains Moshe’s strategy in defense of the Jews. Rav Tendler explains that Moshe’s argument focused on the nature of the human and how it must modify G-d’s view of justice. Moshe argued that G-d Himself must accept partial blame for what had happened. It was G-d who had created a free willed creature that was inherently flawed. It was therefore inevitable that this creation would fail at some point. As it says, “There is no such thing as a Tzaddik (righteous person) who only does good and will never sin.” Therefore, Moshe argued, “If You created humans who inevitably will sin, You must have also established a system of justice that allows these flawed creatures to learn from their mistakes. There must be the possibility of Teshuva – repentance, or else Your entire system of justice does not make any sense. G-d agreed with Moshe because of the love that He had for his nation, and thus Moshe had established “unqualified love” as the foundation for our existence. However, unqualified love does not mean that actions do not have consequences – just the opposite. Moshe himself punished the 3,000 people who were directly involved in the sin of the Golden Calf. Unqualified love means that you always do what is in the best interest of those whom you love. Punishment, if it is truly warranted and properly executed, can be the greatest expression of love. Love, on the other hand, can only be true if it’s unwarranted and absolutely unqualified.

  • Dvar for Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

    This week’s Parsha, Ki Tisa, includes the unfortunate sin of the Golden calf, and includes Moshe’s negotiations on the Jews’ behalf. While there are many things one can learn about the art of negotiations, what seems out of place is that after things are smoothed over and G-d is appeased, Moshe asks to see G-d’s presence (and was denied) (33:18). While there are varying explanations as to what Moshe really wanted to see (from G-d’s attributes to His essence), why would Moshe ask such a question right after G-d had gotten so angry that he threatened to destroy the world?

    One possible answer lies in the very nature of struggle and challenge. When we are faced with a challenge, whether we overcome it or succumb to it, the most valuable aspect of the challenge is the “we”. Not if, but when a couple, a family, a community, a people is faced with a challenge, they naturally become more attached to each other, and grow more cohesive. This is often the point of life’s challenges, although this is frequently overlooked. Moshe worked out a reprieve for the Jews with G-d, and as a result they became close enough that Moshe thought he had a chance to see G-d’s essence, and although he was denied his request, Moshe was granted other insight. We too can gain insight into one another, as long as we focus on each other when faced with life’s challenges.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tisa, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe descends Mount Sinai with the second tablets, and unbeknown to him beams of light were projecting off his face. Aaron and the people are originally afraid of him. Moshe teaches the people the Torah he studied on the mountain. Moshe wears a veil on his face from that time on, but removes it when speaking to G‑d and when repeating G‑d’s words to the people.

    Curious that Moshe’s face glowed, but not his hands, or other skin exposed to G-d’s presence.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tisa, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d seals a covenant with Moshe, assuring him again that His presence will only dwell with the Jews. G‑d informs the Jewish people that He will drive the Canaanites from before them. He instructs them to destroy all vestiges of idolatry from the land, and to refrain from making any covenants with its current inhabitants. The Jews are then commanded not to make molten gods, to observe the three festivals, not to eat chametz on Passover, to sanctify male firstborn humans and cattle, and not to cook meat together with milk.

    The Midrash says that when G-d dictated to Moshe the laws of meat-in-milk, Moshe asked G-d’s permission to write meat and milk (rather than the potentially misleading and confusing goat in the milk of its mother). It seems that Moshe anticipated the questions and comments that people would have, and the wrong ideas that would spring from the wording of this mitzva. Is it forbidden only to cook but permitted to eat? Only the animal’s own mother’s milk or any meat with milk? Just meat from a young animal, or a mature one too? G-d’s answer in the Midrash comes from the passuk that follows: And G-d said to Moshe: you write these things, for it is on the basis of these things that I make my covenant with you with Israel. Some see G-d’s response as teaching Moshe about the significance of the Written Word and the Oral Law. The Written Word is incomplete without the Oral Tradition handed down from generation to generation, and G-d meant it to be that way. He does not want the Torah to be correctly understood by those who have and value only the written word.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tisa, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d tells Moshe to carve new tablets upon which G‑d will engrave the Ten Commandments. Moshe takes the new tablets up to Mt. Sinai, where G‑d reveals His glory to Moshe while proclaiming His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy.

    One can say that not only did G-d forgive the People for the Golden Calf, but He also gave them (us) the method of approaching Him in prayer. Not only are we to recite these 13 Attributes, but we must emulate as many of them as possible. “Just as He is merciful, so too must we be merciful…” In this way we will KNOW His Attributes, live by them, and not just mechanically recite them.

  • Dvar for Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

    Rav Aron Tendler explains that in this week’s Parsha, Ki Tisa, Moshe confronted his greatest challenge as teacher and leader of the Jewish people. His nation and children were threatened with extinction for building a golden calf to worship, and all the evidence pointed to the Chosen People’s intentional betrayal of G-d. What possible defense could he have offered on behalf of his nation?

    The Gemara in Berachot 32a explains Moshe’s strategy in defense of the Jews. Rav Tendler explains that Moshe’s argument focused on the nature of the human and how it must modify G-d’s view of justice. Moshe argued that G-d Himself must accept partial blame for what had happened. It was G-d who had created a free willed creature that was inherently flawed. It was therefore inevitable that this creation would fail at some point. As it says, “There is no such thing as a Tzaddik (righteous person) who only does good and will never sin.” Therefore, Moshe argued, “If You created humans who inevitably will sin, You must have also established a system of justice that allows these flawed creatures to learn from their mistakes. There must be the possibility of Teshuva – repentance, or else Your entire system of justice does not make any sense. G-d agreed with Moshe because of the love that He had for his nation, and thus Moshe had established “unqualified love” as the foundation for our existence. However, unqualified love does not mean that actions do not have consequences – just the opposite. Moshe himself punished the 3,000 people who were directly involved in the sin of the Golden Calf. Unqualified love means that you always do what is in the best interest of those whom you love. Punishment, if it is truly warranted and properly executed, can be the greatest expression of love. Love, on the other hand, can only be true if it’s unwarranted and absolutely unqualified.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tisa, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d’s agrees to Moshe’s request that His presence only dwell amongst the Jews. Moshe requests to be shown G‑d’s glory. G‑d agrees, but informs Moshe that he will only be shown G‑d’s “back,” not G‑d’s “face.”

    This limitation can be extended to include our daily exposure to G-d. If we were to see blatant miracles daily (such as the splitting of the sea or the giving of the Torah), it would be impossible for us to sin. So G-d shows us smaller miracles that we can label as nature, natural, or coincidence. If only we realized how many miracles happen daily for our benefit, we’d be a lot less prone to doing the wrong thing.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tisa, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe asks G‑d to reconsider the matter of the angel leading them. G‑d reconsiders, and agrees to lead them Himself again. Moshe then requests that G‑d’s presence never manifest itself on any other nation other than the Jews.

    It’s fascinating that while the Jews were creating and serving the Golden Calf, Moshe was asking for a more intimate understanding of G-d. One would think that would be the worst time to ask for more, but Moshe saw it as an opportunity to seek a better understand, arguing that if we knew/understood G-d better, we would be less likely to stray, an argument still true today.

  • Daily Aliya for Ki Tisa, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: After G‑d revealed Himself to the entire nation at Mount Sinai and told them the Ten Commandments, Moshe ascended the mountain where he remained for forty days. There he was to study the Torah and receive the Tablets. The Jews miscalculate when Moshe is supposed to return, and when he doesn’t appear on the day when they anticipate him, they grow impatient and demand of Aaron to make for them a new god. Aaron cooperates, all along intending to postpone and buy time until Moshe’s return, but despite his efforts, a Golden Calf emerges from the flames. The festivities and sacrifices start early next morning. Moshe pleads with an incensed G‑d to forgive the Jews’ sin. G‑d acquiesces and relents from His plan to annihilate the Jews. Moshe comes down with the Tablets, sees the idolatrous revelry, and breaks the Tablets. Moshe enlists the Tribe of Levi to punish the primary offenders. Three thousand idol worshippers are executed on that day. Moshe ascends Mount Sinai again, in an attempt to gain complete atonement for the sin. G‑d tells Moshe to lead the Jews towards the Promised Land, but insists that He won’t be leading them personally; instead an angel will be dispatched to lead them. Seeing G‑d’s displeasure with the Jews, Moshe takes his own tent and pitches it outside the Israelite encampment. This tent becomes the center of study and spirituality until the Tabernacle is inaugurated.

    When Moshe sees the Calf, the Tablets either slip from his hands and break or he intentionally smashes them (opinions differ – interesting connotations to either opinion). He seizes the Calf, destroys it, spreads its ashes over the water, and prepares a potion for the people to drink (also interesting connotation that requires analysis).

Back to top