Welcome to Torah Thoughts from Adas Israel the Jewish Congregation of Mason City. This week we study Torah Portion Ki Sisa or "The
Census" (Exodus 30:11 - 34:35). The parsha (portion) opens up with G-d telling Moses to conduct a counting of the people. But, the Torah teaches that it is forbidden to count Jews in the ordinary manner. This is why, even today, synagogues talk about how many families are members rather than the raw number of Jews who are members. (See what you learn here?)
In this powerful portion of the Torah we come face to face with several other events that are monumental to our faith. Sure we learn who is to build the tabernacle and why. Sure we read about washing our hands and feet. But we also read, this week, about the Sabbath and keeping it holy. "...you must observe My Sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I am Hashem (The Name), Who makes you holy." Notice that G-d is telling us we are holy. But, isn't it G-d who is holy?
The rabbis tell us that we are "made in the image of G-d" and that our purpose here on earth is to do that which sanctifies G-d through our works, study, prayer and the way we treat others. They are all entwined.
In this portion we also learn of the Golden Calf. Why would Aaron, the brother of Moses take part in such an act? The reason was because the people were frightened. Moses was delayed, they thought, from coming down from the mountain. The rabbis tell us Aaron was "buying time" and that the people needed a leader and the calf was to represent that.
In another aspect remember that the people had just come from the pagan Egypt where they had witnessed things being treated as Gods... It was easy for them to fall back on what they had known.
Moses prays for the people G-d hears that prayer and directs Moses to go back and receive the second set of tablets.
And then G-d stood with Moses and revealed His Thirteen Attributes of Mercy: "Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth; Preserver of Kindness for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, Wilfull Sin and Error, and Who Cleanses..."
The parsha ends with a promise and a sealed covenant with Moses and all of Israel.
Take some time and read through the portion of this week and as you do reflect a bit on what it is saying to us even in our day.