Torah Weekly

For the week ending 3 March 2018 / 16 Adar II 5778

Parshat Ki Tisa

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
Become a Supporter Library Library


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.



"When you raise the head of the Jewish nation" (30:12)

Why does the Torah choose the expression “raise the head” to mean that Moshe should take a census of the Jewish People?

G-d explained to Moshe that the Jewish People had placed their lives in jeopardy by worshipping the golden calf. The process of counting them by the coins they were to donate would "raise their heads," elevate them spiritually from the depths to which they sunk, and earn them atonement for their sin.

Moshe supposed that such atonement would require a coin of a very large denomination indeed. Perhaps it would be a kikar of silver, the equivalent of three thousand silver coins. If not three thousand silver coins, it might be that G-d would demand a coin worth a hundred silver pieces for each. This would be based on the penalty of one hundred silver pieces as the penalty the Torah prescribes for a man who wrongly defames his wife’s virtue. Since the Jewish People defamed G-d’s name when they mistakenly proclaimed “These are your gods, Yisrael,” this might be the level of the atonement required.

Alternatively, if not a coin worth a hundred silver coins, Moshe surmised that the coin G-d would stipulate might be the equivalent of fifty silver pieces. For that is the penalty that a seducer must pay, and the Jewish People had made idols in defiance of the commandment "You shall have no other gods!"

At the very least, Moshe conjectured, G-d would demand a coin equivalent to the value of thirty Shekalim. The owner of a goring ox must pay thirty shekelim. By worshipping a calf, the Jewish People had traded G-d’s glory for the image of a calf.

Moshe’s fears were unfounded. G-d said to him "You need not pay Me coins worth a hundred, or fifty, or even thirty silver pieces. All I ask is that you donate one small coin the value of a half-Shekel."

G-d then took a half-Shekel coin from under His Throne of Glory, showing to Moshe its size and shape.

"This is the type of coin they shall give," said G-d.

Those half-Shekel coins from the census were melted down and used for the silver sockets, the "adonim", that were the foundation of the walls of the Mishkan. In other words, the Mishkan literally stood on the half-Shekalim that the Jewish People donated. They were the new basis of G-d’s residing amongst them.

Maybe this is one of the reasons that they were called "adonim." Adon means "lord." It is the root of the word that we say to indicate the ineffable four letter name of G-d. In effect the Jewish People, by contributing those half-Shekels, were humbling themselves under the supreme L-rdship of G-d, which was the new basis of their closeness with Him.

It doesn’t take a million dollars to make G-d our "Adon." Just a heart that is as broken and humble as a half-Shekel.

© 1995-2024 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved.

Articles may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue or school newsletters. Hardcopy or electronic. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission in advance at and credit for the source as Ohr Somayach Institutions

« Back to Torah Weekly

Ohr Somayach International is a 501c3 not-for-profit corporation (letter on file) EIN 13-3503155 and your donation is tax deductable.