Ki Tissah presents us with a myriad of issues. We see the call for contributions to service the Tent of Meeting. We meet Betzalel, the chief designer and project manager of the Wilderness and of course, in 32, the great sin of the Golden Calf and the resulting second Covenant (34). So much has been written and spoken about this great event. What was the role of Aaron? Why the calf? There is the linkage between the Exodus story and the story in I Kings 12 where the calf gods were set up as part of the division and power struggle in the post Solomonic period. Is our portion a re-writing of that event, a re-interpretation of history that serves as a warning against false gods?
But another thought, based on the sin of the calf. In his “A Year With Mordecai Kaplan” (JPS), Rabbi Steven Carr Reuben quotes Kaplan on this portion. He writes: “Sin is the failure to live up to the best that is in us. It means that our souls are not attuned to the divine–that we have betrayed God.” Shades of Yom Kippur! Think about that for a second. As we get older and, often, look back on our own journey, we also look at those moments that we may not have lived up to what was the “best” in each of us.
So, a thought for this Shabbat. As we read and study this portion and try to unpack the spiritual and historical impact of the Calf story, let’s also look at our our path. The moments, maybe, when we lacked the patience and faith to hold on to what was (and is) the best in each of us, that aspect of the sacred that makes us different and which propels us to mitzvot. Maybe that is another lesson in our own aging; patience, faith and asking ourself and our soul what is “best” in us that helps us live our life.
Rabbi Richard F Address