Parashat Ki Tisa (When You Lift Up)
Shemot (Exodus) 30:11-34:35
Shabbat Parah (Cow)
Maftir: Numbers 19:1-22
Haftarah: Ezekiel 36:16-38
We have a special reading for what is called “Shabbat Parah”, which is the Shabbat before the “Shabbat HaChodesh” (Shabbat of the Month). The name “Shabbat Parah” comes from the special reading from Numbers 19:1-22 which speaks about the red cow, also known as the Red Heifer.
In general, the main theme of this week’s reading is purification. The reason it is read now is because it is the Shabbat before the Month of Nissan enters, which is the month in which we celebrate Pesach (the Passover). As I was reading this week’s portions, I took much comfort in the fact that it is all about God, and that He will be the one who will ultimately purify Israel from its iniquities.
In the Parashah, we read the tragic account of what happened when the people of Israel did not and could not wait for Moses while he was on the mountain, since they thought that he was “delayed” in returning:
Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people assembled around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we do not know what happened to him.
Without a doubt, this was one of the most tragic moments in Israel’s history. Aaron surrendered to the selfish desires of the people and built a golden calf as a god for them. When Moses comes down from the mountain, we read:
Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets which were written on both sides; they were written on one side and the other. The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing engraved on the tablets. Now when Joshua heard the sound of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a sound of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound of the cry of victory, nor is it the sound of the cry of defeat; but I hear the sound of selfishness.” And it came about, as soon as Moses approached the camp, that he saw the calf and the people dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.”
The selfishness of the people and lack of trust brought about this tragedy. As we continue to read, we see that God promises to create new tablets:
Now the LORD said to Moses, “Cut out for yourself two stone tablets like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets which you smashed.
As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of this account as a precursor to an even greater promise God made with Israel:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD: “I will put My Torah within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
When I look at Israel today, filled with challenges, division, and distress, the only encouragement and hope that I can find is in God alone. It’s really amazing that the Haftarah reading further speaks to the fact that God alone will purify and restore Israel:
“I am not doing this for your sake,” declares the Lord GOD; “let that be known to you. Be ashamed and humiliated for your ways, house of Israel!” ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your wrongdoings, I will populate the cities, and the places of ruins will be rebuilt. The desolated land will be cultivated instead of being a desolation in the sight of everyone who passes by. And they will say, ‘This desolated land has become like the Garden of Eden; and the waste, desolated and ruined cities are fortified and inhabited.’Then the nations around you that are left will know that I, the LORD, have rebuilt the ruined places and planted that which was desolated; I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will do it.”
God will indeed cleanse Israel once again with an everlasting covenant. It will be His work, and not man’s work, and He will do it for His own name’s sake.
Until that day, let us press on in our walk with Him, remembering the comfort and hope we have in Him.
Check out previous blogs on this parashah!
Did you know? — Lone Soldier
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Last week I began a study. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and it developed gradually. Originally, there was one passage I wanted to find about a king – I think it was Nebuchadnezzar – getting over-zealous in how he treated Israel and how he was reprimanded. Now I am looking for all the passages that speak about the consequences for punishing or mistreating Israel and that God Himself will deal with Israel’s disobedience, but I’m also adding the promises God gives to/regarding Israel (land, covenants, descendants).
Thank you for your insights here.