Parashat Ki Tissa

Positive Communal Action

The collection of the half-shekel teaches us the importance of working together as a community.

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The Daat Zekainim, a compilation of medieval French commentators, note that Aaron’s intentions were good. He considered the possibility of appointing a temporary leader to calm the people, yet was afraid that the new leader would not step down upon Moses’ return. He also thought of appointing himself as the people’s head, but was afraid that Moses would mistakenly think that he was trying to usurp Moses’ leadership. Therefore, he tried to use the Golden Calf as a means of “buying time,” so as to avoid actions that could hurt the community and its leader. Perhaps this episode might impel each of us to consider an individual’s motivations and intentions before judging his or her behavior.

It’s also important not to rush to judgment when a person’s appearance seems different than usual. Near the end of the parashah, the Torah describes Moses’ face, after he received the second set of tablets, as emitting rays of light resulting from his closeness to God. From then on, when speaking with the people, Moses would cover his face with a veil.

According to the Be’er Moshe (Rabbi Moshe Yechiel Ha-Levi Epstein, the Ozhorover Rebbe, 1890-1971), he did so to spare them the embarrassment of realizing the closeness with God that they had lost due to their sins. We learn that even when a person is angry, he or she should be sensitive toward others’ feelings, rather than having a judgmental attitude.

To summarize the parashah’s meaning for us: Ki Tissa demonstrates the good that may come from communal action. Our work unites our community in a common cause, in respect and understanding for all Jews, and in sensitivity of the plight of those in need. We should continue to learn the lessons taught to us by our ancestors, and remember that which binds us to them and to our fellow Jews today.

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Laura Safran

Laura Safran is the planning and allocations director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Middlesex County.