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Summary of Parshat Ki Tissa

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

The diverse and wide-spanning Parshat Ki Tissa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) begins with Hashem's command to Moses to take a census by collecting an equal contribution of a half-shekel coin from every adult male between the ages of 20 and 60, the profits from which will go to the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Hashem describes to Moses the copper kiyor (wash basin) with which the Kohanim (priests) would sanctify their hands and feet before serving in the Mishkan. Also discussed is the annointment oil which would be used to sanctify the Mishkan's various vessels for regular use. This is followed by the recipe for the aromatic ketoret (incense) to be burned twice daily. Hashem designates Betzalel, of the tribe of Judah, and Oholiav, of the tribe of Dan, to supervise the upcoming construction of the Mishkan. The mitzvah of Shabbat is then repeated to caution the nation that even the construction of the Mishkan does not supersede the observance of the weekly day of rest.

The Torah returns to the narrative of the revelation at Mt. Sinai and describes the devastating sin of the golden calf. Hashem relents to Moses' prayer that the Children of Israel should be spared from annihilation for this grievous transgression, and Moses descends from the mountain with the two tablets of the Ten Commandments in hand. Upon witnessing a segment of the population dancing around the golden calf, Moses smashes the tablets and burns the idol, initiating the process of repentance. As a result of the people's fall from their lofty spiritual plateau, Hashem announces that His presence cannot reside amongst them, and Moses is forced to temporarily move the Tent of Meeting out of the camp so that Hashem can continue to communicate with him. Moses again ascends the mountain to pray to Hashem that the Jewish people should be forgiven and regain their status as the chosen people. Moses eventually returns with the second set of tablets and a renewed covenant with Hashem, his face radiant as a result of his recent Divine experience.

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