Parsha

For the week ending 6 March 2010 / 19 Adar I 5770

Parshat Ki Tisa

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

Moshe conducts a census by counting each silver half-shekel donated by all men age twenty and over. Moshe is commanded to make a copper laver for the Mishkan. The women donate the necessary metal. The formula of the anointing oil is specified, and G-d instructs Moshe to use this oil only for dedicating the Mishkan, its vessels, Aharon and his sons. G-d selects Bezalel and Oholiav as master craftsmen for the Mishkan and its vessels. The Jewish People are commanded to keep the Sabbath as an eternal sign that G-d made the world. Moshe receives the two Tablets of Testimony on which are written the Ten Commandments. The mixed multitude who left Egypt with the Jewish People panic when Moshe's descent seems delayed, and force Aharon to make a golden calf for them to worship. Aharon stalls, trying to delay them. G-d tells Moshe to return to the people immediately, threatening to destroy everyone and build a new nation from Moshe. When Moshe sees the camp of idol-worship he smashes the tablets and destroys the golden calf. The sons of Levi volunteer to punish the transgressors, executing 3,000 men. Moshe ascends the mountain to pray for forgiveness for the people, and G-d accepts his prayer. Moshe sets up the Mishkan and G-d's cloud of glory returns. Moshe asks G-d to show him the rules by which he conducts the world, but is granted only a small portion of this request. G-d tells Moshe to hew new tablets and reveals to him the text of the prayer that will invoke Divine mercy. Idol worship, intermarriage and the combination of milk and meat are prohibited. The laws of Pesach, the first-born, the first-fruits, Shabbat, Shavuot and Succot are taught. When Moshe descends with the second set of tablets, his face is luminous as a result of contact with the Divine.

Insights

Give Me a Break

“And on the seventh day, a Shabbat of Shabbatot” (31:15)

There are two kinds of rest. The first kind of rest is a rest from weariness, a chance to recharge your batteries, to enable yourself to continue to work. For no one can work indefinitely. Everyone needs a break. The second kind of rest comes at the end of a project. The last brushstroke of a painting. The final sentence of a novel. The last brick in a new home. Then you take a step back and look at your work. You feel the satisfaction of completion. It's finished. It's done. A time to rest and enjoy the fruits of your labors.

"You shall labor for six days and do all your work". How can you do all your work in six days? Can you build an entire house in six days? The Torah teaches us that when Shabbat comes, even though you're halfway through your project you should think of it as though it was finished completely. In other words, on Shabbat you should picture yourself as experiencing the sense of rest and satisfaction that comes after a good job well done, and not that you're just taking a break. In a sense, this is what G-d did when the world was six days old. He looked at the Creation and saw that it was finished, the greatest building project ever, the Heavens and the earth were completed. Our rest on Shabbat is a commemoration of that rest.

This is the essential difference between our Shabbat and the secular idea of a 'day of rest'. The secular world understands the day of rest as a break so that you can return to the week revitalized and refreshed. It's only a break. Shabbat, on the other hand, is not just pushing the pause button on life. It's the creation of a feeling that everything in one's life is complete. There's nothing left to do — except sit back and enjoy the fruits of one's labor.

  • Sources: Based on Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin in L'Torah Ulamo’adim

Labor Of Love

“The children of Yisrael shall keep the Shabbat...throughout their generations” (31:16)

After a person leaves this world, his soul experiences a state of confusion. If, in his lifetime, he enmeshed himself in the physical world, so even after death his soul still looks for those same physical pleasures. However, lacking a body to experience the material dimension, his soul frantically rushes from one side of the world to the other in a vain search for the physical. On the other hand, if a person spends his life in a quest for the spiritual, and only uses the physical world to elevate his neshama (soul), then, after he passes from the physical worldhis soul recognizes the next world, which is entirely spiritual, and rushes to embrace it. The phrase “throughout their generations” in this verse can also be translated “as their dwelling place”. When a person keeps Shabbat he spiritualizes himself and, at the same time, creates a dwelling place for himself in the next world — ‘the world which is entirely Shabbat’. When he goes to the next world he will find a familiar dwelling — Shabbat will be home for his soul.

  • Source: Adapted from the Ohr HaChaim Hakadosh

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