February 21, 2020 ~ MISHPATIM. NAWAH/SABA.

Shabbat Ki Tisa - שבת כי תשא

Maqam HIJAZ: Mandate Melodies

רודף צדק נשמת
אור הנעלם אדון עולם אל ההודאות
אל יצרת נקדישך

Being Counted

כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל - Hillel the Elder asks "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? (Abot 1:14)" He then follows that with "If I am only for myself, what am I?" While it is ideal to find a healthy balance between these two extremes, the Torah favors people who join the community rather than those who keep to themselves. When one is counted in a group, their status is "elevated" (כי תשא), and their potential is raised. In addition, by being part of the group, one avoids possible problems (ולא יהיה בהם נגף) that accumulate from being alone. The message of contributing the half sheqel (מחצית השקל) for the national census is that no person is considered complete on their own. While personal autonomy is not rejected, God instructs us "to be counted" as active members of society in order to lead better lives and ultimately in order to be remembered (לזכרון) and atoned (לכפר על נפשתיכם). Beth Torah Bulletin, 3/18/17.

Defending Aaron

ויקהל העם על אהרן - Is Aaron to blame for the Golden Calf episode? When Moses does not return from the mountain on time, the nation gathers "on" Aaron (Exodus 32:1). The word "on" (על) can also be translated as "against;" inferring that they were twisting his arm. Was this an opportune time for him to be a hero and educate the people about the true nature of God? Apparently, Aaron has no good options here. When Aaron senses the evil intentions of the people, he realizes that his own survival is at risk and therefore decides to cooperate. As much as he tries to delay, the nation's will is strong and the Golden Calf results immediately as the gold is thrown into the fire (ואשלכהו באש ויצא העגל הזה). When Aaron defends himself against Moses, who accuses him of "bringing great sin," Moses offers no response. This is because he knew that sometimes we find ourselves in unfortunate situations where there are simply no good options. Beth Torah Bulletin, 3/3/18.

Large Letters

נצר חסד לאלפים ... לא תשתחוה לאל אחר - Some traditions indicate that there is exactly one large and one small version of each letter throughout the entire Tanakh. The second and third instances of large letters are both found in Perashat Ki Tisa. There is a large Nun (נ) for the phrase נצר חסד לאלפים in Exodus 34:7, and only 7 verses later, there is a large Resh (ר) for the phrase לא תשתחוה לאל אחר in Exodus 34:14. One might suggest that the Nun of נצר חסד לאלפים (extend kindness for thousands) is large in order to emphasize the eternal message that God constantly repays acts of kindness for thousands of generations. Regarding the large Resh in אחר, many suggest that it is enlarged in order not to confuse it with the similar looking letter Daled (ד), which would change the entire meaning of the word. It is important to remember that at times, even making an error on one single letter, such as אחר and אחד, can lead to tremendous confusion. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, 2/23/19.