The Path to Justice

The Path to Justice

Mar 5, 2021 By Rachel Kahn-Troster | Commentary | Ki Tissa

I’ve been a human rights activist for more than a decade, beginning my work by organizing the Jewish community to speak out against torture. One of the first things I learned—a theme that resurfaces across many of the campaigns for human rights that I have been part of—is that when people act out of fear, when their sense of safety and security is challenged, they make unfortunate choices. 

Read More
Does God Get Carried Away?: A Case of Inner-Biblical Midrash

Does God Get Carried Away?: A Case of Inner-Biblical Midrash

Mar 13, 2020 By Jeremy Tabick | Commentary | Ki Tissa

What does it mean to be El kana, “a jealous / zealous God”?

This phrase appears in the Second Commandment:

You shall not bow down to [other gods] and you shall not worship them, for I am YHVH your God, El Kana, one who takes note of the sin of parents upon children, upon third and fourth [generations], to those who hate Me. But I am one who does love to the thousandth [generation], to those who love me and to those who keep My commandments. (Exod. 20:5-6/Deut. 5:9-10)

Read More
A Bearable Lightness

A Bearable Lightness

Feb 22, 2019 By Eitan Fishbane | Commentary | Ki Tissa

In this week’s parashah, we encounter two iconic moments in the epic story of Benei Yisra’el and their reception of the Torah. The first is known as the sin of the golden calf, when the impatience of the people waiting for Moshe’s return leads to their worship of a gleaming physical form in place of God, their redeemer. This narrative event comes to be not only a climax in the biblical story, but also serves as the paradigmatic image of idolatry through two millennia of Jewish theology. The second iconic moment occurs upon Moshe’s descent from Mount Sinai, holding the two tablets of the covenant made with the finger of God. Encountering this ultimate violation, Moshe dramatically smashes the sacred tablets at the foot of Sinai.

Read More
Kept by Shabbat

Kept by Shabbat

Mar 2, 2018 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Ki Tissa

Ahad Ha’am famously said: “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Pretty remarkable coming from the founder of cultural Zionism!

Parashat Ki Tissa either supports or challenges Ha’am’s words. This week’s parashah relates one of the lowest moments in Israel’s story—the sin of the golden calf—in which Israel dances before a god of their own making. Coming down Mount Sinai with the stone tablets inscribed by God’s finger (Exod. 31:18), Moses sees Israel’s frenzy and smashes the tablets. Moses spends the rest of the parashah picking up the pieces and working to restore Israel’s relationship with God.

Read More
Is It Right?

Is It Right?

Mar 17, 2017 By Yehudah Webster | Commentary | Ki Tissa

Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular—but one must take it simply because it is right.

—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A Proper Sense of Priorities”

Read More
Doing Shabbat, Together

Doing Shabbat, Together

Mar 17, 2017 By Judith Hauptman | Commentary | Ki Tissa

Following the instructions for preparing incense for future offerings, six verses speak of the Sabbath (Exod. 31: 13-18). Two of them appear in our siddur and are sung in most synagogues on Friday night and Shabbat morning (vv. 16-17). Probably because the words are so familiar, I have tended to overlook their precise meaning.

Read More
Marketing Judaism

Marketing Judaism

Feb 19, 2011 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Text Study | Ki Tissa

If the Torah you teach isn’t sexy, don’t teach it. An unassailable marketing message rooted in a play on words: “had finished” is kekaloto, which─especially written as it is, missing the letter vav toward the end─could be rendered instead “as his bride.”

Read More
Torah in the Face of Tragedy

Torah in the Face of Tragedy

Mar 9, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Ki Tissa

The month of Adar has hardly been a herald of joy for our people this year, as it traditionally is.

Read More
The Lesson of the Golden Calf

The Lesson of the Golden Calf

Feb 26, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Ki Tissa

One third of the book of Exodus is devoted to the construction of the tabernacle, God’s mobile dwelling in the wilderness. I suspect that we moderns find the devil, and not God, in the profusion and repetition of details. The Torah could mercifully have spared us its twice-told tale, first God’s instructions to Moses (Ex. 25-31) and then his execution of them (Ex. 35-40).

Read More
Transcending “Soulless Piety”

Transcending “Soulless Piety”

Mar 2, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Ki Tissa

Writing in the week of my father’s yahrzeit, I am drawn to reflect again on some of the spiritual heirlooms he left behind. One of my favorites is the piquant term “soulless piety” which he coined to describe an all too common phenomenon that results when ritual observance loses its emotional charge and we find ourselves just going through the motions. Judaism is a religion predicated on behavior rather than belief; compliance outranks spontaneity in its scale of values.

Read More