Torah Weekly

For the week ending 19 February 2011 / 14 Adar I 5771

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.


The Rest Is Easy

“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 our batteries, to enable us 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 labor.

"You shall labor for six days and do all your work".

How can you do all you work in six days? Can you build an entire house in six days?

The Torah teaches us that when Shabbat comes, even though we're half-way through a project, we should think of it as though it was finished completely. In other words, on Shabbat we should picture ourselves experiencing the rest and satisfaction that comes after a good job well done — not 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 a 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.


  • Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin in L'Torah ul'Moadim

Heart And Stone

“And the tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing, the writing of G-d.” (32:16)

Next time you’re in shul take a look at the depiction of the Ten Commandments above the Holy Ark. The tops of the two Tablets are curved. Why are the Ten Commandments this shape? The Talmud describes the Tablets as being cubes. There is not a single classical Jewish source which describes the Tablets in the form with which we are familiar today.

Where did this shape come from?

Another question. If the Children of Israel had already heard the Ten Commandments, why was it necessary for the Commandments to be engraved on Tablets? Wasn’t the overwhelming experience of hearing G-d speaking sufficient?

When the Ten Commandments were engraved on the Tablets, they were also being engraved on the hearts of the Jewish People for all time. Engraved in stone and engraved on the Tablet of the heart. The writing was the writing of G-d, Who indelibly engraved them on the heart of the Jewish People for all time.

Take another look at those Ten Commandments above the Holy Ark. Their rounded tops symbolize the shape of the heart, the heart of the Jewish People where they have been engraved for three thousand years.


  • Sfas Emes in Mayana shel Torah; Rabbi Moshe Shapiro

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