I find myself getting ready for Shabbos Parashas Ki Sisa in Monsey, New York… My brother’s getting married this Sunday so my family is here for Shabbos, where we’ll be celebrating another aufruf for him! You’re invited to crash my brother’s wedding at 8:30pm on Sunday, email me for more information!
This week’s parasha continues the last few weeks’ discussion of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, with a break at the beginning to talk about the counting of the Jewish people. Next we learn about the copper washing basin kept in the courtyard of the Mishkan, and then the anointment oil that is used to anoint the Kohanim, the priests who work in the Mishkan. Next we learn about one of the holiest offerings, the Ketores, which is made from spices and brought in the Holy of Holies, twice a day.
Now that we’ve learned all of the details of the Mishkan, somebody has to build it! Hashem appoints two men: Betzalel ben Uri from the tribe of Yehuda, and Ahaliav ben Achisamach from the tribe of Don as his assistant. These two talented men are entrusted with the task of building the Mishkan and all of its vessels!
The next commandment we learn about is one of my favorite: Shabbos!! Finally, after He finishes speaking to Moshe Rabbeinu, Hashem gives Moshe Rabbeinu the Luchos ha’Eidus, the Tablets of Testimony, and Moshe comes down the mountain. What does he find upon his return to his people after his absence of forty days and nights?
Hashem declares that He will simply destroy the Jewish people and start again with Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe Rabbeinu prays and convinces Hashem to give the Jews another chance. The people are dancing around a golden calf that they have fashioned to replace Moshe Rabbeinu as their leader!
Upon his arrival at the bottom of the mountain, Moshe Rabbeinu throws the Tablets down and they shatter into a million pieces. He asks his brother Aharon HaKohen to explain to him what is going on. Aharon HaKohen explains that the people got worried that Moshe Rabbeinu might not be coming back and his efforts to delay their actions did not work. The result was the Golden Calf.
Moshe Rabbeinu calls out “Mi LaHashem Eilai!” – “Whoever is for Hashem, join me!” and the tribe of Levi all come to join him. This army set out to kill out the people who caused such a tragedy among the Jewish people, and the next day Moshe Rabbeinu returns to Hashem to beg forgiveness for the people’s sin. Hashem grants partial forgiveness and does not destroy the Jewish nation.
Instead, he instructs Moshe Rabbeinu as to how the Jewish people will travel to the Holy Land. Moshe Rabbeinu pleads for Hashem to stay with the Jewish people and not abandon them or stay distant. Hashem accepts his prayers, and after another forty days and nights, Moshe Rabbeinu makes the second pair of Tablets to replace the broken ones. Hashem teaches Moshe Rabbeinu the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, the Middos HaRachamim, and Hashem renews His covenant with the Jewish people.
Moshe Rabbeinu descends from the mountain. The Jewish people continue to learn from him, although he has to wear a mask when he’s with the people because of the holiness radiating from his face!
Though we glossed over it at the beginning, the counting of the Jewish nation is actually an important part of this week’s parasha. How do I know it’s important? Well, the parasha is named after the verse “when you count…” which implies that it’s something vital.
We find numerous times throughout the Torah that Hashem counts us. Why is He so intent on keeping track of the numerical size of the Jewish people? Doesn’t He know how big we are, anyway?
Imagine you have a collection of china dolls. My assumption would be that you probably count those china dolls pretty often. You mention each one by name, check to make sure its curls are laying right, and that its figure hasn’t been hurt… on a pretty regular basis.
I can relate to this actually. I have a keychain collection. Although at this point in my life, the keychains are hanging around my bedroom, for many years I had the collection hanging next to my bed or on the hooks behind my bedroom door. Every so often, I’d take down the collection and count my keychains. After I finished, I’d start explaining the history of each keychain to whichever one of my family members or friends was interested in listening at the moment.
Why are we so intent on counting our possessions? If I counted them last week, chances are (unless I changed it – in which case I’d already know!) that the numbers haven’t changed! Write it down for heaven’s sake!
This isn’t what Hashem does, though. He continually counts His children, the Jewish people. Why? To show His love for us. We are His absolute most precious possession, and so of course He will count us often, with much more love and feeling than I count my keychains or you count your china dolls.
I find this to be such a comforting motto and thought. HASHEM LOVES YOU!
What more powerful thought can there be in the world than the fact the Creator of the heavens and the earth loves and cares about you more than you can imagine?
Listening to “Sameach” on Yaakov Shwekey’s album B’hisorirus.
Have a beautiful Shabbos!