Torah Weekly

For the week ending 14 March 2009 / 18 Adar I 5769

Parshat Ki Tisa

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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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.


In The Shadow of G-d

“See, I have called by name: Betzalel…” (31:2)" — "And behold I have appointed with him Oholiav…" (31:6)

A shadow on the ground.

Itself without substance, ephemeral, yet it reveals the existence of something somewhere else.

Nothing is as insubstantial as a shadow, and yet the shadow is the silhouette of something that is beyond.

Faith is like a shadow.

The essence of a succa is its shade, its shadow, if you like; a succa that has more sun than shadow is invalid. Our Sages teach that when we sit in the succa we are sitting in “the shadow of faith.” The spiritual masters derived this phrase from a verse in the Song of Songs, “In His shadow I delighted and there I sat, and the fruit of His Torah was sweet to my palate.” (2:4)

We can experience closeness to G-d through tasting “the fruit of His Torah.” We can experience the sweetness of that Existence that is beyond, but, for the very reason that He is beyond, we can never see that Existence. When Moshe asked G-d to show him a revelation of that Existence, God replied, “You cannot see My face, for man cannot see Me and live.”

The name Betzalel means, “In the shadow of G-d.”

It was Betzalel who was responsible for the building of the Mishkan — the Ohel Mo’ed (Tent of Meeting). G-d used the letters of the aleph bet to create the heavens and the earth, and Betzalel's particular gift was that he knew how to combine the letters of the aleph bet, the DNA of creation, and create a microcosm of the universe. Interestingly, if you look at the name of Betzalel's partner in the building of the Mishkan, Oholiav, you will see that it comprises the words Oheli — "My tent" — and "aleph Bet." Oheli – aleph beit. It was as though G-d placed into Oholiav's name "My tent, My Mishkan, is made of the aleph bet."

This is why the Mishkan and the Beit HaMikdash were beautiful.

The Talmud says “if you never saw the Second Beit HaMikdash (HolyTemple), you never saw a beautiful building in your life.” The Beit HaMikdash was called the “eye of the world.” The eye is a physical organ but it receives something that is about as non-physical as you can get: Light. The Beit Hamikdash was called “the eye of the world” because it was the portal for the Light. The Beit HaMikdash was the most beautiful building not because of its dimensions and proportions or its finishes but because it revealed the resting of the Divine Presence in this world.

Faith is like a shadow. Faith is the knowledge of something that you cannot see.

The nation that dwells in the shadow of faith proclaims that existence extends beyond the here-and-now, beyond what can be perceived by the five senses of man. Faith is something that takes place in the shade. In the shadow.

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