September 24, 2023 |

My Weekly Drash (a mini D'var Torah) - Ki Tissa

Sometimes the rabbis find something in our Torah reading that’s just too good to resist. Take the opening of this week’s Parshah Ki Tissa. It beings with God commanding Moses to take a census by having each person age 20 or older contribute a half-shekel which will then go to support the Tent of Meeting (and, in later generations, the Temple). There are usually two lessons derived from this. This minimal amount is assessed of everyone, so that rich and poor are treated alike. Further, the census will be taken by counting the coins – an interchangeable object – rather than counting the unique human beings contributing them. Now, here’s a third lesson: the Hebrew word for “each shall pay” (Exod. 30:12) is “vi-nawtnu” which, in Hebrew, reads the same way backwards or forwards. According to the Vilna Gaon, the lesson here is that the person who contributes today may have to receive financial help tomorrow. It’s a two way street. Thus even the poor are expected to give tzedakah, since there’s always someone worse off, and the rich are reminded that hard times come to everyone, and someday they may depend on such assistance themselves.


Daniel M. Kimmel

Joined: October 2, 2007

Daniel M. Kimmel is a Boston area film critic, lecturer and author. He does these weekly mini-lessons for the Mishkan Tefila Brotherhood's newsletter. You are free to use them for similar purposes.

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