CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013 - 4

Voices of Torah
Ki Tisa


(Michael Boyden)

(Amy Scheinerman)

Ki Tisa is about leadership and how we
deal with disappointment.

Vayak’heil opens with an invitation to the people to bring gifts to build the Wilderness Tabernacle,
and P’kudei closes with God’s Presence settling into its new domicile. Is the Mishkan a crude
precursor to the glorious Mikdash in Jerusalem? Or perhaps the Mikdash is modeled on the pristine

Moses is on Mt. Sinai to receive the
two tablets of the Pact, “stone tablets
inscribed with the finger of God.” This
should have been the pinnacle of his
career. However, sometimes, just when
we think things are going well, everything
gets turned on its head.
While Moses is “out of town,” the people
turn to Aaron and plead for “a god who
shall go before us, for that man Moses,
who brought us from the land of Egypt—
we do not know what has happened to
Only twelve chapters after the revelation
at Mt. Sinai where “the people saw the
thunder and the lightning, the blare of the
shofar and the mountain smoking,” all is
forgotten. They can’t even maintain their
faith in their leader for forty days!
Moses responds by breaking the stone
tablets. Why did he do that? Was he
angry? Or perhaps we should adopt
the Rashbam’s explanation that, “When
[Moses] saw the [golden] calf, he
became weak and no longer had the
strength [to hold the tablets].”
How does Moses cope with
disappointment? He does not lose his
temper. He does not distance himself
from his people, but rather sides with
them and pleads to God on their behalf:
“If I have gained Your favor, Adonai, let
Adonai accompany us, even though
this is a stiff-necked people. Pardon our
iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your

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The Mikdash symbolized and facilitated the centralization of Jewish power and authority in
Jerusalem, and particularly in the Davidic dynasty. It was a fixed, “permanent” structure conveying
the permanence anointment of the Davidic dynasty, and the fixed, eternal connection of Am
Yisrael to Eretz Yisrael. Nearly two millennia after its destruction, it comes to represent our eternal
connection to the Land and our hope for the messianic future (though many of us would vote with
Rambam on the issue of sacrifices).
The Mishkan in some senses is the opposite: it is purposefully migratory, attached to no particular
tract of land, and certainly no monarchical dynasty. Rather, it is the nexus of heaven and earth, the
place where God and Israel meet. The Mishkan is our assurance that wherever we are, when we
gather as a community, God is among us.
Living at a time when Jews have a sovereign nation in the Land, yet live scattered among nations
across the globe, both Mikdash and Mishkan take on special meaning. We juggle and balance our
various commitments and outlooks on the State of Israel, the Land of Israel, where to find God, how
to be a community, how to relate to one another—all of which are implicit in the tension between
Mishkan and Mikdash.

(Joshua Minkin)
Vayikra begins with a lengthy discussion of sacrifices that are central to Israel’s relationship to
God. The first of these is the olah offering (Leviticus 1:3). Given that each of us contains within us
a spark of the Divine, can Vayikra teach us something about our relationships with one another,
and our relationship with our own selves?
The Torah: A Women’s Torah Commentary notes that, “the burnt offering usually appears first in
a series of sacrifices [which] suggests that its purpose may be to open up communication with
the Divine; if so, then that goal would be accomplished by manifesting generosity — giving part of
one’s wealth to God.” (p. 572)
Certainly communication is key in any relationship. This insight into the olah suggests that
opening communication begins with generosity. It is not our wealth, but our self, which is the
olah, the offering. We sacrifice our most precious possession: our ego. We lower the boundaries
that protect who we truly are from exposure and gradually reveal our vulnerabilities. This requires
us to trust another. In being generous, we suspend judgment of another, sacrificing our preconceived notions and expectations. Pirkei Avot 1:6 reminds us: “Judge everyone favorably.”
In addition, can we learn to communicate openly and honestly with our own Divine spark?
Each year we take a cheshbon nefesh, our personal accounting of who we truly are. We open
ourselves up to the parts of us we try to hide even from ourselves. How much more vulnerable
can we be? We should not forget to be generous to ourselves as well. We need to shed the
preconceived notions we have carried from childhood and trust our ability to not just see
ourselves for who we are, but to accept ourselves with love and gentleness, as well.


CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CCAR Newsletter Mar-Apr 2013

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