February 17, 2019 ~ Shabbat KI TISA. Maqam HIJAZ.

Shabbat Ki Tisa - שבת כי תשא


כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל - Hillel the Elder asks "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? (Abot 1:14)" He then follows that with "If I am only for myself, what am I?" While it is ideal to find a healthy balance between these two extremes, the Torah favors people who join the community rather than those who keep to themselves. When one is counted in a group, their status is "elevated" (כי תשא), and their potential is raised. In addition, by being part of the group, one avoids possible problems (ולא יהיה בהם נגף) that accumulate from being alone. The message of contributing the half sheqel (מחצית השקל) for the national census is that no person is considered complete on their own. While personal autonomy is not rejected, God instructs us "to be counted" as active members of society in order to lead better lives and ultimately in order to be remembered (לזכרון) and atoned (לכפר על נפשתיכם). Beth Torah 3/18/17.

Aaron's Defense

ויקהל העם על אהרן - Is Aaron to blame for the Golden Calf episode? When Moses does not return from the mountain on time, the nation gathers "on" Aaron (Exodus 32:1). The word "on" (על) can also be translated as "against;" inferring that they were twisting his arm. Was this an opportune time for him to be a hero and educate the people about the true nature of God? Apparently, Aaron has no good options here. When Aaron senses the evil intentions of the people, he realizes that his own survival is at risk and therefore decides to cooperate. As much as he tries to delay, the nation's will is strong and the Golden Calf results immediately as the gold is thrown into the fire (ואשלכהו באש ויצא העגל הזה). When Aaron defends himself against Moses, who accuses him of "bringing great sin," Moses offers no response. This is because he knew that sometimes we find ourselves in unfortunate situations where there are simply no good options. Beth Torah Bulletin, 3/3/18.