Weekly Reading Insights: 
Ki Tissa 5766


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Ki Tissa

To be read on 18 Adar 5766 (March 17-18)

Torah: Exodus 30:11- 34:35; Maftir Parah: Numbers 19:1-22;
: Ezekiel 36:16-18 (for Parah-"the Red Heifer")

Ki Tissa is the 9th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and 21st overall, and 8th out of 54 in overall length.

Commandments to make a census in which each male over the age of 20 gave half a shekel, and to make a washstand and basin, anointing oil, and incense for the Tabernacle. Betzalel and Oholiav were chosen as the head craftsman for the construction of the Tabernacle, its contents, the priestly clothes, oil, and incense. The Jews were commanded to observe Shabbos, the day of rest. Believing Moshe’s descent overdue, the Jews asked Aharon to make them a deity. From gold the Jews gave, a calf was formed which the Jews began to worship. On the mountain, G-d told Moshe of what the Jews had done. Moshe pleaded with G-d not to annihilate them, reminding His promise to the forefathers to make the Jews a nation. Upon his descent, Moshe saw the Jews idolatrous behavior and threw down the tablets of the 10 commandments, breaking them. Then G-d, Moshe and the Levites punished offenders. G-d said that an angel would lead them in the desert, but eventually agreed to Mocha’s plea that He directly lead the Jews. G-d granted Moshe a special vision of His glory. G-d told Moshe to carve out two new tablets and return to the mountain top. Moshe recited special verses which mention G-d’s attributes of mercy. The Jews were reminded not to commit idolatry, not to make peace treaties with the nations living in Israel, to observe Passover, Shavuos and Shabbos, to dedicate first born males, animals and first fruit to G-d, that all men should appear before G-d at the Temple thrice yearly at certain times, and not to mix milk and meat. Moshe wrote down all the commandments, and G-d wrote the ten commandments on the two new tablets. When Moshe descended this time, his face was so luminous that he had to wear a veil over it.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:2166/Ki Tissa)

Come and see: smell sustains the Nefesh in man. This is because the soul enjoys the smell - not the body. When Isaac smelled the clothes, he was smelling the same clothes that were worn by Adam and were made for him by G-d.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:2166/Ki Tissa)

To explain: These two commandments, observing the Shabbat and honoring parents, are equivalent. The [latter] is honoring one's bodily parents, while the [former] is honoring one's spiritual parents, i.e. Zeir Anpin and Nukva, who are referred to as the "two Shabbats" in the Sages' statement that "if the Jewish people would keep two Shabbats properly, [they would be redeemed immediately]." (Shabbat 118b)

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (O:2166/Ki Tissa)

This washing was out of reverence for Him Who is on high, for whoever approaches the King's table to serve, or to touch the portion of the King's food, and of the wine which he drinks, washes his hands, because "hands are busy" [touching unclean things automatically]. In addition He prescribed here the washing of feet because the priests performed the Service barefooted, and there are some people who have impurities and dirt on their feet.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.



"Speak to the Children of Israel that they bring to you a completely red heifer, on which there is no blemish, that has never borne a yoke." (Num.19:2)
From this we learn that if a person considers himself the epitome of perfection and "without blemish," it is a sure sign that he has never borne the yoke of Heaven, and is therefore unaware of his faults.
(The Chozeh of Lublin)

Ki Tissa

"This they shall give...half a shekel (machatzit) of the shekel of the Sanctuary." (30:13)
The Hebrew word "machatzit" is spelled mem-chet-tzadik-yud-tav. The letter tzadik, which also means a righteous person, is exactly in the center. The two letters nearest to the tzadik are chet and yud, which spell "chay," meaning alive. The two letters furthest from the tzadik are mem and tav, which spell "meit," or dead. From this we learn that being close to a tzadik imbues us with life, and that giving tzedaka (charity, symbolized by the half-shekel) saves us from death.
(Sifrei Chasidut) (from L'Chaim #661)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"Speak to the Israelites and tell them: 'this shall be the anointing oil to Me for all your generations.' " (30:31)

The oil for shemen hamishcha was used to anoint the High Priests and the Kings of the House of Dovid. Moshe prepared only 12 lug (about 2 gallons) of this oil. Miraculously it was enough for all past generations and all future generations. It was still used in the second Holy Temple, but was hidden when the Temple was destroyed. When Mashiach is revealed, it will be returned to us.

[Adapted from Discover Moshiach in the Weekly Torah Portion (by Rabbi Berel Bell and the students of Bais Chaya Mushka Seminary of Montreal), as published on www.mashiach.org]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:2166/Ki Tissa)

May this Torah essay merit the fast and complete recovery of Devorah Gittel bas Baila

Ki Tisa introduces the commandment: "Aaron and his sons should wash their hands and feet in it (the washstand) before they come to the tent of meeting" (Ex. 30:19). This washing had two purposes. First, cleanliness and purity is a prerequisite to priestly service. Second, by washing, the priest would come to a higher level of holiness. The Mishna calls this process, "sanctification of the hands and feet." (Yoma 28a)

Since the destruction of the Temples, it is impossible for us to serve the Almighty in totality. Notwithstanding, the spiritual imperative for the required service still exists today. The "priest" is every Jew, as the verse says, "You are a kingdom of Priests and a holy nation." Accordingly, it is appropriate even today for each of us to prepare ourselves for spiritual service by washing. The Rambam writes in his Laws of Prayer, "Before one prays the morning prayers, he should wash his face, hands and feet and only afterwards pray." His ruling is based on the Talmudic adage "The daily prayers are said in relation to the Temple offerings". Similarly, the washing we do today is representative of the purity and sanctification accomplished by the washing performed by the priest before his service.

It might have slipped by you, but the Rambam added a detail not present in the commandment for the priests - the washing of the face. The Rambam was not trying to make our lives more complicated. The washing of the face has a special significance in these days of exile. What is the difference between our present era and Temple times?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that feet and hands, our means of interfacing with the world, represent the human capacity of action. On the other hand, the face connotes the subtler, inner strengths, our intellect, sight, hearing, speech, etc.. The mundane world is dealt with primarily via our feet and hands, as the verse says, "With the effort of your hands you should eat." (Psalms 128:2) This isn't an idle statement. King David is telling us that it is our hands that we should invest in the world. Your other, more inner strengths keep for the acknowledgement of and service of G-d.

From this point we can understand the difference between now and the period of the Temples. During the Temple eras, we were on a higher level. The "face" was automatically separated from the physical world. It was natural for a person to maintain an aloofness of the mind and its faculties from the mundane. Therefore, designating sanctification of the face was unnecessary. This is not true today. Today it is hard to remain aloof from the world. In addition, our higher qualities are very much under attack by the world we live in. Some extra protection, in the form of a little extra purity and holiness is required. This is the basis for the Rambam's addition, to wash our faces before we pray.

Someone may think that while the above is a nice idea, it is a bit superficial. Washing your face to remain aloof from an aggressive world? And according to some major Jewish authorities, to think so is correct; they do not require such action, for a Jewish person innately has the strength not to be swept away by the world. Other rabbis say that even the subtlest effort at the start of our day, such as the saying of the "Modeh ani" prayer, is enough to put us in control and connected to our spiritual source, the Holy One blessed be He. Overt action is not required, they say. The inner dimension of every Jew is always available to serve the Almighty and is out of reach of the world and its negative effects.

Shabbat Shalom , Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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