26 Feb 2016

Ki Tisa 5776: Masterful Companions

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Ki Tisa 5776 – Masterful Companions

“He who has a partner has a master.” ― Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

Calamity strikes in perashat Ki Tisa. It is the first time since the Garden of Eden that we read of sin that affects the full future of life and development for the Jewish people. In Moshe’s absence, as he is atop Mount Sinai receiving the Torah, the people grow impatient and anxious about his seeming delay in returning. They fashion a Golden Calf as a physical and tangible image of G-d and worship it.

G-d’s initial response is harsh and menacing.

So now, let Me be, that my anger may flare against them and I may destroy them! (32:10)

But even as Moshe succeeds in his negotiations to quell the divine wrath, G-d is still not interested in any personal involvement moving forward.

Moshe soothed the face of G-d his Lord…G-d said to Moshe: Go up from here…to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Yitzhak and to Yaakob…I will send a messenger before you…But I will not go up in your midst, for a stiff-necked people are you, lest I destroy you on the way! (32:11, 33:1-3)

This too Moshe quite firmly refuses to accept and in doing so insists that G-d agree to engage with the Jewish people for the rest of history in a way that would not only accept future failings but embrace them. G-d agrees to walk with us and we go from G-d sending a ‘messenger’ to personally ‘dwelling with them in the midst of their impurity’[1].

It did not need to be that way. G-d could have kept a distant watch on our ultimate goals and leave the processes in getting there to be managed by His divine messengers. It may very well have been logistically the same and we would have likely made it through. But Moshe was not fighting here for logistical success; it was warmth, care and personal attention that he was fighting for.

There can be no comparison to a world in which programmed systems — no matter how divine and sophisticated — are to be navigated and a world in which a living relationship with G-d is the modus operandi.

In one it is all business:

Here I am sending a messenger before you to care for you on the way…Take care in his presence, do not be rebellious against him, for he is not able to bear your transgressing…(23:20-21)

In the other it is intimacy and attention:

Moshe said to G-d:…See, this nation is indeed your people!

[G-d] said: If My presence were to go would I cause you to rest easy?

[Moshe] said If Your presence does not go, do not bring us up from here…It must be that You walk with us.

…G-d said to Moshe: Also this word that you have spoken, I will do, for you have found favour in my eyes… (33:13-15)

 [Moshe] said: If I have found favour in your eyes my Lord, let my Lord go among us! (34:9)

 The rigidity and mechanics of being supervised by a pre-programmed messenger was replaced with the personal flow and emergent developments of the Living G-d.

But relationships can never be one-sided. When the terms of the deal are a mutual relationship with G-d, the world in which we live is not simply a passive setting in which G-d acts, but instead a responsive environment in which we provide the conditions for His presence. In such partnership those involved are not only companions, but also demand the attention and heeding of the other.

In perashat Ki Tisa, with the help of Moshe, we develop from dealing with the ramifications of fashioning our own god to actively living in a covenant with the one true G-d. The Almighty committed to being present within the people throughout the rest of history.

When the relationship is nurtured and cultivated and is not taken for granted, it lifts those engaged with it; becoming the source of life’s unfolding as the two become intertwined. To access it we must first accept that it is real and become faithful to its presence. The buoyancy that such a shared presence creates supports us and offers pathways to growth that we would never anticipate on our own. The alternative, however, leaves us to navigate the waters of life on our own, struggling with whatever meagre tools we might possess.

To feel and be part of the ‘new deal’ brokered between G-d and Moshe, we must leave the closed circuit that dances around the Golden Calf and turn outwards to the world and all that is in it. Along our journeys we are bound to walk through narrow and dark passages but with our eternal, Faithful Companion beside us we do so walking tall, confident and in the light of love.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

[1] Lev.,16:16

Law and Lore – The Reading of the Sepher Torah I

After the Amida which essentially closes the prayer of Shaharit, we read the Sepher Torah publicly.

The Sepher is taken out of the hekhal and brought to the Teba for reading.

Hagbaha (‘Lifting’) – The Sepher is lifted and the writing is shown to the entire congregation. Both men and women must be able to see the writing[1].

Upon seeing the writing the congregation bow/nod facing the Torah and say veZot haTorah asher sam Moshe liphne Bene Yisrael – ‘This is the Torah that Moshe placed before the Children of Israel’[2]. Some congregations have the custom to point to the Torah when saying this. This is the custom of the S&P in London.

Different congregations add other verses with this one. The custom of the S&P in England is to add  – Torah tsiva lanu Moshe, morasha kehilat Yaakob – ‘Torah did Moshe command us, possession [for] the assembly of Yaakob’[3], and when the Sepher is placed back on the teba we say ha’El tamim darko, imrat Adonai tserufa, magen Hu lekhol hahosim bo – ‘The way of G-d is perfect, The word of the Lord is pure, He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him’[4].

The Sepharadim have the custom to show the writing to the congregation before the reading of the Torah, while most Ashkenazim have the custom to show it after the reading. Some say that the reason for doing it after the reading is so that the congregation will remain until after the reading to see the writing[5].

When the Sepher is lifted and shown to the congregation the entire congregation stands out of respect for the Torah.

Rabbi Isaac Luria (Ari) wrote that when the writing is shown to the congregation, one should be able to see and read the actual letters for there is a ‘great light’ which is drawn from the Sepher[6].

The custom of many Oriental Jews is to open the hard case at the Hekhal and carry the Sepher while open to the teba. This essentially is considered the hagbaha and when doing so it is proper to take the Sepher to the women’s section. Some will lift it at the teba and turn it to all four sides of the synagogue as well.

The custom of the S&P in England is to refer to the mitsvot of the Sepher Torah in Portuguese. The one who lifts the Sepher is called the Levantador  or the one que levara o Sepher Torah. It is also the S&P custom in London not to honour anyone with the mitsva of Levantar  who has not been tested and approved in his ability to do so proficiently.

[1] Masekhet Sophrim, 14:14.

[2] Deut., 4:44

[3] Deut., 33:4

[4] II Samuel, 22:31

[5] Shiyure Kenesset Hagedola, 134

[6] Magen Abraham 147:3

Parasha Perspectives IX Ki Tisa

48             The half Shekel, machatzit haShekel  (30:11-16)

49             The copper washbasin, kiyor  (30:17-21)

50a           Salve of holiness, mishchat kodesh (30:22-33)

50b           The incense, ketoret  (30:34-38)

50c            Bezalel and Aholiav, as aide, are appointed to supervise Mishkan’s construction (31:1-11)

51a           Keeping Shabbat (31:12-17)

51b           Making and worshipping a molten calf, eigel masecha (31:18-32:6)

52             God is angry but Moshe persuades God not to destroy the People (32:7-14)

53a           Moshe returns to the camp, smashes tablets, and the People are punished  (32:15-35)

53b           God separates from the People so Moshe relocates outside the camp (33:1-11)

54             Moshe asks to know God’s Way (33:12-16)

55             Moshe asks to see God’s Glory (33:17-23)

56             Moshe brings a new set of hewn tablets up the mountain. He learned of the 13 attributes; a renewed covenant; a rejection of all others; Shabbat;Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot (34:1-26)

57             Moshe, face glowing, returns after forty days from the mountain (34:27-35)
Taken from, ‘Torah for Everyone’ by Rabbi Dr Raphael Zarum, Dean of LSJS