Aliya-by-Aliya Parshat Ki Tisa 5759

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-countof the Sefer HaChinuch. Other counts differ.

Kohen First Aliya - 45 p'sukim (30:11-31:17)

The longest First Aliya in the Torah, by far - but not for Monday and Thursday or the previous Shabbat Mincha purposes, since we don't read all of the first Aliya on those days.

The first 6 p'sukim of the sedra are the portion of the Mitzva of the Half- Shekel [105]. The half-shekel was used to count the People and to create the fund for the purchase of communal offerings throughout the year, as well as other spiritual needs of the community. The half-shekel was required of males from age 20 andup. It was optional for women. (separate records were kept so the "Army" census would remain accurate.) Although Kohanim were also required to give a half-shekel, they were not "forced" by the courts in the way that non-kohanim were, as a courtesy to their standing and function in society. Sh'kalim were NOT accepted fromnon-Jews. (There were funds in the Beit HaMikdash to which a non-Jew may contribute, but NOT the half-shekel. It is sort of like member ship dues - for members only.)

[SDT] The Midrash says that G-d took a fiery coin from under His Heavenly Throne, showed it to Moshe Rabeinu, and told him: Like this shall they give. What can we learn from the image of a fiery coin? Commentaries say that just as fire can be destructive if misused, but can be very useful and beneficial if used properly,so too is it with money. Perhaps money is (or can be) the "root of all evil", but it can be used for charity and acts of kindness, the purchase of beautiful sacred objects, hiring teachers of Torah, providing a lifestyle that is conducive to Torah study...

The next portion deals with the Laver and its stand, for the Kohanim to wash their hands and feet before their Sacred work [106]. A kohen who does not wash (sanctify) his hands and feet before doing "service" in the Beit HaMikdash is liable to "death from Heaven" and the korban he has brought is invalid. What might thissay to us? Our Sages have commanded us to wash our hands before eating a bread-meal. (Actually, this "Rabbinic Mitzva" is attributed to Shlomo HaMelech and his Sanhedrin.) There are several p'sukim in the Torah that are considered to be the inspiration for the mitzva to wash our hands. This is one of them, based on the famous conceptthat our (food) table is like the Altar. We are challenged to elevate the mundane act of eating and invest it with a spirituality which is the hallmark of Judaism and a Torah way of life. The comparison between the Altar and our dining table is responsible for several customs, including salting the HaMotzi and removingor covering the bread knife (not necessary on Shabbat, according to some sources) for Birkat HaMazon.

And, before we approach our "Altar" to serve G-d, we too wash our hands. Just like the Kohen. Not with the same penalty for not washing properly, B"H. Could you imagine a Heavenly death penalty for not washing for HaMotzi? No. But the comparison SHOULD prompt some serious reflection on our part, and hopefully, an improvementof the way we relate to this everyday mitzva.

Basically, the point is to be inspired by the same p'sukim in the Torah that guided our Sages, and to recommit ourselves to Torah, mitzvot, halacha, and Jewish practice.

First, are you careful about washing for HaMotzi? You should be.

You are? Good. Are you careful to dry your hands BEFORE washing, so that the water has its intended purpose of removing ritual impurity in the best way. It might seem like a small matter, but there are opinions that washing wet hands does not fulfill the mitzva properly. And do you properly dry your hands after washing?And do you complete the bracha before your hands are completely dry? That too is important.

Are you careful not to interrupt between washing and HaMotzi? Of course. Good, you don't talk until after HaMotzi (should be, until after the first swallow of the chewed bread of HaMotzi). But silence is also an interruption (less severe) and one should try to minimize the gap between washing and HaMotzi. It's not alwayspractical, but it can be done. The point is, to THINK about what we do and why we do it, and HOW we do it. Washing for HaMotzi is an example of a mitzva that is easy to take for granted, to go on "automatic pilot". Easy to do, but not so carefully. But if we do it that way, we'll be missing so much. Let's wash better,bench better, daven better, do mitzvot better, treat each other better. Let's be thinking and feeling Torah Jews.

Next follows the command to take specific quantities of various spices, mix them with olive oil, and prepare the special "anointing oil". The Kohen Gadol and kings of Israel are to be anointed with this oil [107], as were the sacred vessels of the Mikdash. It is forbidden to use this oil for personal use [108], or evento dare dishonor the Mikdash by making the special mixture privately [109].

We are next commanded to make the K'toret, the incense offered twice daily in the Mikdash. The mitzva of K'toret is presented and counted in T'tzaveh; here we have the prohibition of compounding the same formula for personal use [110].

G-d tells Moshe that B'tzalel shall be in charge of the actual construction and fashioning of the Mishkan and its contents. His assistant shall be Oholiav, and a team of skilled artisans shall join in the work.

At this point, G-d reminds Moshe that the Shabbat may not be violated, even for the construction of the Mishkan. (We might have thought otherwise, due to the sacredness of the endeavor, hence the reminder.) Shabbat is the eternal sign between G-d and the People of Israel.

[SDT] Shabbat and Mikdash "rub elbows" several times in the Torah. They complement each other, in that Mikdash represents the Sanctity of Place, and Shabbat represents the Sanctity of Time. One may not build the Mikdash on Shabbat, but many acts in the Mikdash "pushed aside" Shabbat. And we learn many rules and detailsfor Shabbat from the laws of Shabbat. There is an equation of sorts, certainly a link established, with the pasuk - My Shabbats you shall preserve, and my Mikdash you shall revere.

Levi Second Aliya - 47 p'sukim (31:18-33:11)

The longest Second Aliya in the Torah; tied with Parshat Pinchas

[SDT] The division of the Aliyot in Parshat Ki Tisa is extremely disproportionate. 45 and 47 p'sukim for the first two portions, leaving 47 verses for the remaining five Aliyot. Two factors are to "blame". First, we generally read a tragic portion of the Torah to one person; we try not to break it up. The portion of theSin of the Golden Calf is completely contained within one Aliya. So too, we do not want to call a Yisrael to the portion of the Golden Calf - it is embarrassing to us. Nor would it be proper to call a Kohen for that portion, because of Aharon's "involvement". Only the Levi can hold his head high because of his ancestorsrallied to Moshe's side in the defence of G-d's honor. The result is to read for the Kohen the long series of topics at the beginning of the sedra, so the Levi gets the Golden Calf portion. What is left is divided for the remaining five Aliyot. This should teach us a certain type of sensitivity in our daily lives. We shouldtry to avoid talking about certain topics in the presence of those whose feelings would be hurt by such words. There are many variations on this theme. The Torah now returns to telling us about Matan Torah, which was "interrupted" by the portions of the Mishkan. G-d gives Moshe the Tablets of stone...

When the People saw (or thought) that Moshe was delayed in returning from Har Sinai, they feared that they would be leaderless, and they appealed to Aharon to do something. Exactly what he did is disputed, but his delaying tactic resulted in the emergence of the Golden Calf. Most of the people were confused and did nothing(that was part of the problem), but 3000 men arose and reveled in the Calf. G-d told Moshe to see what the People were doing in his absence. G-d indicates to Moshe that the People deserve destruction.

Moshe turns and descends the mountain, carrying the Luchot in his hands. When he sees the Calf, the Tablets either slip from his hands and break or he intentionally smashes them (different opinions). He seizes the Calf, destroys it, spreads its ashes over water, and prepares a potion for the people. He asks Aharon whathappened. He calls to those "who are on G-d's side" and the Levites rally to his call and kill by sword those who dared "worship" the Calf.

On the next day (the exact sequence of events is debated by commenta tors), Moshe went up the mountain to continue pleading Israel's case before G-d. G-d will punish those responsible.

As a result of the Golden Calf, G-d distances Himself from the People. He does, however, reiterate His promise to give them (us) the Land of Israel. The People are distraught by G-d's words. Moshe too removes himself and his tent from the midst of the camp. Moshe remains in direct contact with G-d... and Yehoshua was constantlyin the Tent.

[SDT] The pasuk tells us that about 3000 people were killed in the aftermath of the Gold Calf. The P'SHAT, the straightforward understanding, is that 3000 people of over 600,000 men sinned and were killed. (This would be half of a percent of the adult male population. With women and children, the total population was probablyabout 2 million.) The Midrash on Kohelet, based on a pasuk there says that approx. one in a thousand sinned. That would mean about 600 men. The Vilna Gaon sees a significance in the numbers based on the punishment for one who steal and sells or kills a cow. The Torah says he shall pay "five times for the ox". The peoplepaid that price with 3000 fatalities by the member of the cow family - the Golden Calf. 600 actual violators times 5 equals 3000 casualties.

If this is so, how come people who did not actually sin with the Golden Calf were killed? The answer lies with a fact of Jewish Life - All of Israel is responsible for one another. Anywhere from .1% to .5% of the adult male population sinned, but there must have been many, many people in a position to do something aboutthe situation and didn't. The DRASH is a DRASH, and this explanation is oversimplified, but it does make one think, does it not?

Sh'lishi Third Aliya - 5 p'sukim (33:12-16)

Moshe argues that G-d must remain in the midst of the People in order to demonstrate that He truly chose us. One senses the unique relationship between G-d and Moshe that permits Moshe to speak to Him the way he does.

At the same time that our relationship with G-d was changing because of the Golden Calf, Moshe was asking G-d for a more intimate understanding of the Divine Essence.

How do you figure?

Is it not strange that specifically when Bnei Yisrael is in the midst of a very rough time that Moshe asks G-d to reveal himself to Moshe more than He already has? Perhaps Moshe had a bit of a "spiritual panic" in that G-d, Who had been so close to the people at Sinai was about to distance Himself from us. And Moshe fearedthat he too would lose out. Mixed with his efforts on behalf of the people, Moshe wants to safeguard and enhance the relationship that he has with HaShem.

R'vi'i Fourth Aliya - 7 p'sukim (33:17-23)

G-d agrees to Moshe's request, because of His special feelings towards Moshe. Then Moshe asks that G-d reveal more of Himself to him (Moshe). G-d tells Moshe that such a revelation is impossible, but that Moshe will be able to experience more of G-d's essence. This, with the understanding that it won't be everything. Thep'sukim in this portion of very enigmatic. Commentaries attempt to unravel the mysteries of these verses.

Another possible answer... (Offered by Mrs. Michal Grunwald)

In order to better plead on behalf of Bnei Yisrael, Moshe MUST know G-d better. This knowledge he (and we) gained in the form of the 13 Divine Attributes. At this moment of great peril for the People of Israel, Moshe the great leader must be in the best possible position to fight on their behalf.

Rashi says that Moshe Rabeinu sensed that the moment was very sensitive and extra favorable before G-d. This can be so, perhaps, after Moshe secures G-d's assurances that He will not destroy the People, as He had threatened. In other words, Divine Anger mixed with Divine Mercy redirects the strong emotion of Anger and resultsin extra closeness to HaShem. His gift of the 13 Midot is "proof" of this. If He was still angry, so to speak, we wouldn't have gotten such an intimate view of G-d.

Chamishi Fifth Aliya - 9 p'sukim (34:1-9)

This portion (read on Fast Days) contains the 13 Divine Attributes. 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 ismerciful, so too must we be merciful..." In this way we will KNOW His Attributes, not just mechanically recite them.

G-d next tells Moshe to cut new stones to replaced the ones he had broken. Moshe once again ascends Sinai to recieve the new Luchot, the Attributes, and G-d's message of Divine Forgiveness. This 40 day period - Elul and the 10 Days of T'shuva, became days of special approach between G-d and the People.

HASHEM, HASHEM... This is G-d's Quality of Mercy. Rashi says that the twice-mentioned Name idicates G-d's Mercy before AND after we sin. This fits with what was said previously about G-d being particularly close to us so soon after His Anger was displayed. With a stiff-necked wayward child, you either severely disciplinehim or shower extra love on him. Maybe this is the second HASHEM, the Quality of Mercy after we sin. This doesn't mean that we should sin before G-d... but it is reasurring that He will treat us this way.

Shishi Sixth Aliya - 17 p'sukim (34:10-26)

Our position relative to other nations is conditional upon our keeping of the mitzvot. We are forbidden to make covenants with the nations in Eretz Yisrael. Specifically, we are forbidden to eat or drink of idolatrous offerings [111]. All this to avoid falling to their temptations and to avoid inter marriage.We must destroytheir idols.

We are commanded to keep Pesach in the Spring. In a direct link to the Exodus, we have 3 types of B'CHOR mitzvot - human, kosher farm animals, and donkey.


The differences among the three types of B'CHOR are interesting. A human B'CHOR must be redeemed. Even though the Kohen asks the father which he would prefer, his son of the silver, it is not a free choice. The father must opt for the child. In the case of cow goat and sheep, it is forbidden to redeem the firstborn. It must be given as a gift to a kohen, and he must bring it (if it is fit) as a korban. Attempted redemption is forbidden, and results in both the original B'chor and the attempted exchange-animal being sacred. The firstborn of a donkey SHOULD be redeemed (exchanged for a sheep or its value). If the owner refuses to redeemthe firstborn donkey, it must be destroyed. This destruction (with no one benefiting from the carcass) is also a mitzva (as is redemption).

Shavuot and Sukkot complete the cycle of the Pilgrimage Festivals; males are required to appear at the Beit HaMikdash (and not empty- handed). This mitzva and others guarantees our hold of the Land.

Shabbat and the Land's Shabbat, Shmita [112], are referred to.

The Korban Pesach may not be offered while its owner has Chametz, nor may we leave K.P. over to the morning.

Bikurim are to be brought to the Mikdash and meat-in-milk may not be eaten [113], as opposed to cooked, which is prohibited in Mishpatim..

Kind of strange that these two mitzvot share a pasuk. Some say that the custom of eating dairy dishes on Shavuot comes from this verse, and its identical counterpart in Mishpatim.


The Midrash says that when G-d dictated to Moshe LO T'VASHEIL G'DI BACHALEIV IMO, and explained to him the laws of meat-in-milk, Moshe Rabeinu asked G-d's permission to write meat and milk (rather than the potentially misleading and confusing G'DI in the milk of its mother). It seems that Moshe anticipated the questionsand 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? Etc.

G-d's answer in the Midrash comes from the pasuk that follows LO T'VASHEIL – 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 incvomplete without the Tradition handed down from generation to generation. And G-d means it that way. He does not want the Torah to be correctly understood by those who have and value only the writtenword. Misunderstandings when it comes to the laws of milk? Not if you have the whole Torah. Not if you have access to the Talmud and Rambam and Shulchan Aruch and, most importantly, to the teachers who know how to transmit Torah and Mitzvot and their explanations faithfully from one generation to the next..

Sh'vi'i Seventh Aliya - 9 p'sukim (34:27-35)

Moshe is commanded to write all this down, for they are the basis of the covenant between G-d and the Jewish People. When Moshe returns from Sinai, he is unaware of the aura emanating from his face. Aharon and the people shy away from him. Moshe calls them back so he can teach them Torah. Moshe transmits the words of G-dto the People of Israel.

MAFTIR - 22 p'sukimBamidbar 19:1-22

Parshat Para is from the beginning of Chukat. The time of the year that these mitzvot were most active was Nissan-time, when many people came to Jerusalem for the Korban Pesach. This is one reason for Para when it is.

Haftara 25 p'sukim - Yechezkeil 36:16-38 (S'faradim end 2 p'sukim sooner)

The Haftara deals with the spiritual aspects of ritual purification. Tum'a is considered a state of Chilul HaShem, and the Jew is challenged to purify himself - with G-d's help - and thereby become holy, as G-d has commanded. Each Jew has this challenge and the potential of being good or evil. We are also part of Klal Yisrael.