adapted from Meta Parshiot by R David Wolfe-Blank and Living Torah by R Aryeh Kaplan



This Torah portion begins with a commandment to conduct a census of the people. Each person is to give half a shekel to support the sanctuary. Exactly half a shekel, not more and not less. In this way an annual census was taken and funds were collected for the Mishkon. The efficiency is thoughtful and pragmatic.


Next, are more details about the Mishkon – instructions for the copper washstand, anointing oil, and incense. (For those of you who are 420 interested Kaneh Bosom, one of the ingredients in the temple incense, is thought by many to be cannabis.) The master artisans who will build the Mishkon are named. After that is an eloquent reminder about Shabbat, the holy and precious treasure. She needs and deserves protection.

by Barbara Mendes


Havayah (YHVH) taught a new way of life to Mosheh for forty days and gave him “Sh’nei Luhot haBrit” (the two tablets of the of the covenant) upon completion. Mosheh was getting ready to return when the people got restless. They had not seen their leader, Mosheh, for a long long time. Eventually, they got aggressive and demanded an oracle from Aharon, the High Priest who was left in charge. The people were restless, and pressure was rising.

Aharon held back the oracle. He diverted the people’s attention by gathering donations of valuables and making the golden calf. The people wanted a celebration and Aharon provided one. He acted with restraint and he stood up for the people afterward, “don’t be angry,” he says to Mosheh, “but you must realize that the people have bad tendencies.”.

The acceptance of the people is a beautiful model of how to treat people with understanding. The people had recently left a life slavery and were recovering. They were worth advocating for even when they make mistakes. Everyone errs. Aharon is a peacemaker.

(Ex 32:22)


The Bney Yisaskhar writes about potential consequences of the golden calf incident. The tablets of covenant were the equivalent of a ketubah; marriage contract between the Yisreal community and The Holy One of Blessing. Worshipping another god, then, was akin to committing adultery on the Yisrael God, The Master of the Universe. The punishment for this transgression is death to the entire community. Mosheh loved the people and could not allow this to happen. He did what he had to do and he proactively broke the tablets. This nullified the commitment. As a result, no contract was broken. This could have been the end of the story. This is the reason Mosheh needed to get clear on how to move forward that will be considered in the following section.


Try to imagine how Mosheh Rabbeinu felt as a result of the incident with the golden calf. It put a major pause in the works. The nation had violated their fundamental agreement by worshiping the calf idol. The future was uncertain. An Angry Havayah seriously considered destroying the entire Yisrael nation and starting over with Mosheh. Mosheh‘s response to the idea,

“If the people are destroyed”, Mosheh says, “my name should be erased from the records as well.”

Exodus 32:32


After the event with the golden calf Moshe checks in with Havayah. He speaks respectfully, as one would address a Sovereign, and the speech laced with a sense of familiarity, even intimacy.


Mosheh‘s behavior reveals that he 1) trusts the relationship he has with Havayah ( the words ‘finding favor in Havayah‘s eye’ and the’ knowing of Mosheh by name’ suggest this), 2) wants clarity to know if the golden calf incident shifted the Holy One of Blessing’s commitment to the Yisrael people. Its as if Mosheh is asking, ‘Are you still in? I need you here. End it now, if You are not in.’


Mosheh yearns for deeper intimacy with the Divine. Not only that, he tells Master of the Universe that he seeks intimacy for a pragmatic reason – to serve better. Mosheh is clear that Havayah‘s Presence is not optional for this journey. This dialogue demonstrates intimacy and a language of love shared.


Now, if I have indeed found favor in Your eyes, then let me know Your ways, so that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your eyes; and see (clearly) that this nation is Your people.”
So (Havayah) said, “My Presence will go, and I will give you rest.”
And he said to (Havayah), “If Your Presence does not go [with us], do not take us up from here.
For how then, will it be known that I have found favor in Your eyes, I and Your people? Is it not by means of You going with us? Then, I and Your people will be distinguished from every [other] nation on the face of the earth.” And Havayah said to Moses: “Even this thing that you have spoken, I will do, for you have found favor in My eyes, and I know you by name.”
And he said: “Show me, please, Your glory!”

וְעַתָּ֡ה אִם־נָא֩ מָצָ֨אתִי חֵ֜ן בְּעֵינֶ֗יךָ הֽוֹדִעֵ֤נִי נָא֙ אֶת־דְּרָכֶ֔ךָ וְאֵדָ֣עֲךָ֔ לְמַ֥עַן אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֶ֑יךָ וּרְאֵ֕ה כִּ֥י עַמְּךָ֖ הַגּ֥וֹי הַזֶּֽה: וַיֹּאמַ֑ר פָּנַ֥י יֵלֵ֖כוּ וַֽהֲנִחֹ֥תִי לָֽךְ: וַיֹּ֖אמֶר אֵלָ֑יו אִם־אֵ֤ין פָּנֶ֨יךָ֙ הֹֽלְכִ֔ים אַל־תַּֽעֲלֵ֖נוּ מִזֶּֽה: וּבַמֶּ֣ה | יִוָּדַ֣ע אֵפ֗וֹא כִּֽי־מָצָ֨אתִי חֵ֤ן בְּעֵינֶ֨יךָ֙ אֲנִ֣י וְעַמֶּ֔ךָ הֲל֖וֹא בְּלֶכְתְּךָ֣ עִמָּ֑נוּ וְנִפְלִ֨ינוּ֙ אֲנִ֣י וְעַמְּךָ֔ מִכָּ֨ל־הָעָ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הָֽאֲדָמָֽה: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהֹוָה֙ אֶל־משֶׁ֔ה גַּ֣ם אֶת־הַדָּבָ֥ר הַזֶּ֛ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבַּ֖רְתָּ אֶֽעֱשֶׂ֑ה כִּֽי־מָצָ֤אתָ חֵן֙ בְּעֵינַ֔י וָֽאֵדָֽעֲךָ֖ בְּשֵֽׁם: וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַרְאֵ֥נִי נָ֖א אֶת־כְּבֹדֶֽךָ:

Ex 33:13-18


And (Havayah) said, “You will not be able to see My face, for no human shall see Me and live.” Havayah said: “I have a special place you can stand on the rocky mountain. When My glory passes by, I will place you into the crevice in the mountain, protecting you with My power until I pass by. Then, I will remove My hand, and you will see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”

וַיֹּ֕אמֶר לֹ֥א תוּכַ֖ל לִרְאֹ֣ת אֶת־פָּנָ֑י כִּ֛י לֹֽא־יִרְאַ֥נִי הָֽאָדָ֖ם וָחָֽי: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהֹוָ֔ה הִנֵּ֥ה מָק֖וֹם אִתִּ֑י וְנִצַּבְתָּ֖ עַל־הַצּֽוּר: וְהָיָה֙ בַּֽעֲבֹ֣ר כְּבֹדִ֔י וְשַׂמְתִּ֖יךָ בְּנִקְרַ֣ת הַצּ֑וּר וְשַׂכֹּתִ֥י כַפִּ֛י עָלֶ֖יךָ עַד־עָבְרִֽי: וַֽהֲסִֽרֹתִי֙ אֶת־כַּפִּ֔י וְרָאִ֖יתָ אֶת־אֲחֹרָ֑י וּפָנַ֖י לֹ֥א יֵֽרָאֽוּ

Ex 33:20-23

Imagine Mosheh in the cleft of the rock and a “whoosh” of shimmering Presence passes on by. Mosheh takes a look then. He sees the Divine back (back of T’filin according to Midrash) on the way out. Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (from Shnei Lukhot haBreeet) teaches that on Yom Kippur time becomes God. I find it can be a time when Presence is deeply felt. Perhaps this as a small taste of the experience Mosheh had in the cleft of the rock.


The Torah portion starts with giving half a shekel per person. This is a very assiyadik ; physical, (Sh’khinah) activity to benefit the Mishkon (Tiferet) financially and practically with a census.

Sh’khinah signifies the completion of a cycle. Three cycles of seven weeks since Simhat Torah. Therefore, the major development of the energies that we helped invoke during the High Holy Days have now been established. We have direction and are building inertia. It is time to take a breath and acknowledge that an important piece of our spiritual maturation process has come to an end. As in Ki Tisa, we have moved forward, regressed a bit, rejected regression and are now back on track.

Shabbat Shalom

Tmimah Audrey ickovits

Recent Posts