September 24, 2023 |

Parshat Ki Tisa Walkthrough

Loyalty to the literal text, with a modern voice [All editorializing in brackets]

God continued speaking to Moses:

When you take a census of the Israelites, and each one redeems his soul from God, lest He smite them – [what an opening]

Everyone 20 years or older should give a half a shekel donation to God. The same amount, rich or poor, and it should go towards running the Appointed Tent, so that God should forgive the Israelites.

God continues:

Make a bronze basin with a base, between the Appointed Tent and the altar. That’s where Aaron and his sons should wash up before they approach the Appointed Tent (lest they die), for all time.

God continues:

Take a variety of spices, mix it with olive oil, and anoint all the various things we’ve been discussing – the table, menorah, altar, etc., even Aaron and his sons should get smeared. And tell the Israelites that this is holy oil – they shouldn’t make another batch, and anyone who tries to duplicate it (or anoint a foreigner) will be cut off from his people.

God continues:

Take another set of spices and make incense, and put it before the Ark in the Appointed Tent; it will be most sacred. Whoever makes a similar mixture recreationally will be cut off from his people.

God continues:

I found you someone, named Betzalel (Hur’s grandson, tribe of Judah), who is extremely talented in all the materials we’ve been discussing for the Tabernacle. I even found him an assistant, named Oholiav (tribe of Dan) – they together with several other talented and creative people will be able to execute the plans for the entire Appointed Tent and everything that goes in it, everything I have commanded you they’ll take care of.

God continues:

You go tell the Israelites that the Sabbath is important, as a sign between Me and you forever, to know that it is I who make you holy. Keep the Sabbath, because it’s special. One who desecrates it will be put to death, and one who does work will be cut off from his people. Work can be done for 6 days, but the seventh is a holy day of rest for God; whoever does work on the Sabbath will be put to death. [Note: Shabbat morning Kiddush next:] The Israelites must keep the Sabbath, to observe it forever as an eternal covenant. It is a sign between Myself and the Israelites that God created the heavens and the earth in six days, and on the seventh He rested and reinvigorated.

And so when God finished to speak to Moses on Mount Sinai, he gave him the two Tablets of the Covenant, stone tablets written with the finger of God.

Meanwhile, the people saw that Moses was taking a long time to come back from the mountain, and they ganged up on Aaron, telling him, “Go make us a god who can go before us, because this guy Moses, the guy who took us out of Egypt, we don’t know what happened to him.”

Aaron replied, “Take off your gold earrings and bring them to me.” And so they did.

And so he took their gold, and he made a calf. They proclaimed, “These are your gods, Israel, who took you out of Egypt.” Aaron saw this, and he built an altar in front of it, and he announced, “Tomorrow will be a party for God!”

They woke up early the next morning and offered sacrifices, and they had a feast and had a grand old time.

God continued speaking to Moses:

“I think you should go down, because the people you took out of Egypt have gone quite astray. They’ve gone far afield of what I commanded them, making a calf, sacrificing to it, and proclaiming that it was the god that took them out of Egypt.”

God told Moses, “I’ve been watching this nation, and they are one stubborn group of people. Now if you would just let me, I will realize my anger at them and destroy them, and get you another nation.”

Then Moses pleaded of his God, “Why should you be angry at your people whom You took out of Egypt with such strength? Why should Egypt be able to say that you took them out of Egypt out of spite, to kill them in the wilderness and wipe them off the face of the earth? Please calm down, and back off these bad plans. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel and what you promised them, to give the land to their descendants and make them numerous as the stars!”

And so God backed off all the bad plans that He had considered doing to His people.

Thus Moses turned and came down from the mountain, with the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, written on both sides, written by God Himself.

Joshua heard the people cheering, and he said to Moses, “Sounds like a war’s going on in the camp!”

Moses replied, “Well, there’s no sound of one side winning, or of one side losing, it just sounds like a general ruckus.”

And so it was, as he approached the camp and saw the calf and the celebration, Moses became infuriated, hurled the tablets from his hands, and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf they had made and burned it, grinding it until it was a fine powder, which he then spread out over the water and let people drink it.

Moses turned to Aaron and asked him, “What could they have done to you, to have brought upon them such a travesty?”

Aaron replied, “Please don’t be angry – you know how evil these people are. They told me to make a god to lead them, since they didn’t know what happened to you. So I asked them to take off their gold, which I threw in the fire, and out popped this calf.”

Moses saw how out of control things had gotten, and so he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “Whoever is in favor of God, come to me!” -- and all of Levi’s children joined up with him [remember, these are his cousins, as he and Aaron are also from Levi’s children]. He told them, “Everyone get your swords, and go across the entire camp, killing friends, family members, brothers.” And so they did, killing some 3000 people. After which Moses told them to offer sacrifices, to atone for the kind of day they had.

And so it was, the next day, Moses spoke to the people: “You have committed a grievous sin – I need to go back to God, see if maybe I can get Him to forgive your sins.”

So Moses returned to God, and he said: “Listen, this nation has committed a grievous sin, in making a golden idol. Now if you would, please forgive their sin, or you can take me out of this book you wrote entirely.”

God retorted, “I think I will take the ones who sinned out of this book, [not you].” For now, go lead this people as you were, with my angel leading you – but this will come back around. And God smote the people for making the calf, which Aaron had made.

God continued, “Go on, get out of here, you and the people you took out of Egypt, to the land I promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will send an angel before you (and I will chase out the indigenous populations) , to the land flowing with milk and honey – but I will not be going with you, as you are a stubborn people and I might just wipe you out en route.”

The people heard this awful thing and mourned, and no one wore jewelry. Then God told Moses to tell the Israelites, “You are a stubborn people – one of these days I will come around and destroy you. Now please take off your jewelry and I’ll figure out what to do with you.” And so it was that the Israelites had their jewelry from Mount Horeb taken away.

So Moses set up the tent far from the camp, and called it the “Appointed Tent”, such that anyone seeking God could go out to the tent outside the camp. When Moses would head out to the tent, everyone would stand and look out their front door and watch Moses until he got to the Tent. When he got there, a pillar of cloud would descend and talk to Moses. Everyone would see this pillar of cloud, and bow down where he was standing. Then God would talk to Moses face to face, the way someone might talk to a friend, and then he would return to the camp. His assistant, Joshua (just a boy at the time) wouldn’t even leave the Tent.

Moses said to God: “Look, you told me to take this nation out, and at the time you didn’t say who you were going to send with me, and you told me that you chose me by name and that you liked me – Now, if we’re still on good terms, explain to me how you work, so that I can know you better, and continue to do the right thing – look, this nation, they’re your people.”

God: “My face will go and guide you.”

Moses: “If your face DOESN’T go, let’s not take this any further. How else will the people and I know that we are doing right by you, if not by your demonstrating your preference for us over the other nations of the world?”

God replied to Moses: “I will do as you have spoken, because you have done right by me and I’ve gotten to know you by name.”

Moses: “Please show me your glory.”

God: “I will pass before you, calling in the name of God – I will favor and have mercy on whomever I want.”

God continued: “You will not be able to see My face, because man cannot see My face and live.”

God continued: “Here’s a place near Me – you can stand by that rock. When My glory passes by, I’ll put you in a crook of the rock, and cover you with My hand. Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”

God continued: “Go carve two new tables, just like the first ones, and I’ll write the same thing on the new ones that as was on the old ones that you shattered. Be ready come morning, when you should go up to Mount Sinai, and wait for me at the top. Please come alone – no one, not even livestock, should be near the mountain.”

And so Moses carved two new stone tablets, woke up early in the morning, and ascended Mount Sinai. God descended in a cloud and stood there with Moses, who called out to Him.

God passed before Moses, who called out, [Note: These are the “13 attributes”]: “O God, You are a merciful and gracious God, patient, and full of kindness and truth. You engender kindness for multitudes, and bear with us as we work through our flaws. But only to a point: You can bear a grudge for generations in the case of real iniquity.”

Moses hurriedly bowed, and continued: “My Lord, if You think highly of me, please stay with us – stubborn nation and all – forgive us all of our wrongdoings and bring us to the land that you promised.”

God replied, “I will create a covenant – I will perform miracles in plain sight as never seen before. The whole nation – you included – will see the awesome power of God. Do what I command, and I will chase out the local nations. Do not enter into treaties with them, as they will just fester in your midst. Instead, destroy all of their altars and modes of worship, as you are not to bow before any other god, for your God is a jealous one.

If you do enter into treaties, the people will start to worship their gods, join in feasts, start to intermarry, and the second generation at that point will be totally integrated into the culture of idol worship. Do NOT make any more statues!

Be sure to observe the Matzah holiday – you should eat matzah for 7 days (as I’ve told you) in the spring, for it was in the spring that you left Egypt. All firstborns – whether human or animal – belong to me.

You should work for 6 days, abut on the seventh day you should rest, all agricultural work should stop.

And also make a festival of fulfillment [Shavuot] at the beginning of the wheat harvest, and another festival of ingathering [Sukkot] around the beginning of the year.

Three times a year, all males should show up to greet the Lord God of Israel. Even though I will conquer nations in your path and give you wide borders, no one will covet your land when you go to greet your God, three times a year.

When it comes to the Passover sacrifice, do not offer sacrifices with leavened bread, and don’t keep any leftovers until the morning.

Bring your first fruits to the house of God; do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk.

God continues: “Write down all these things, for they are the basis of the covenant with you and with Israel.”

Moses was there with God for 40 days and 40 nights; he didn’t eat or drink. And he wrote the terms of the covenant, the 10 things [“10 Commandments”] on the tablets. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the tablets in his hands, he was not aware that his skin shone like a ray of light from having spoken with God. Aaron and the Israelites saw the ray of light coming from Moses’ skin, and they were too terrified to approach him. Moses called out to them, and Aaron and the leaders came to him first to talk. Then all of the Israelites approached as well, and he passed on all of God’s commandments from Mount Sinai.

Moses finished talking to them and put a screen over his face. When Moses would approach God to talk, he would remove the screen as long as he was there. Then he would leave to tell the Israelites what God had said, and when they saw the ray of light Moses would return the screen to his face, until the time came for his next encounter with God.


Jack Kustanowitz

Joined: July 15, 2007

Jack is an Internet professional living in Silver Spring, MD. He is a proud alum of the Frisch School in Paramus, NJ as well as Boston University, where he was active at BU Hillel.

Divrei Torah (32)


There are currently no divrei Torah about .




Joined: August 21, 2016


Divrei Torah (0)

Marcia Weinstein

Joined: February 5, 2015

Divrei Torah (0)


Joined: June 21, 2018


Divrei Torah (0)

More Faces