Exodus 30:11-34:3 (PART II)

(Wikimedia Commons)

The Adoration of the Golden Calf – Picture from the Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (12th

Ki Tisa, what an action-packed special parsha with so much to offer:

  • Half shekel census in which the participants have to pony-up a half shekel each.
  • Betzalel from the Tribe of Judah and Aholiav from the Tribe of Dan take charge of the construction of the Mishkan sanctuary.
  • We are emphatically commanded to keep the Sabbath.
  • Moses ascends the mountain to be schooled in the Torah.
  • Aaron makes the Golden Calf, oh boy, and we start dancing around it.
  • Moses descends; he carries the stone tablets; he sees us worshiping the calf, and he smashes the tablets.
  • Hashem is disgusted with us and wants to start over with Moses’ family.
  • Moses tells Hashem, if you do not forgive us Jews, blot me out; we are forgiven.
  • Moses insists that Hashem and not an Angel accompany us to our Land; Hashem desists.
  • Moses ascends once more and prepares a second set of tablets.
  • When Moses rejoins us, his face is so radiant that it must be covered with a veil.


Hashem instructs Moshe (30:12-16 ) as to how to take a census of the B’nai Yisrael. The census serves as a poll tax of males, aged 20 and up where each male contributes a half shekel weight (about 6 grams) of solid silver to be used in the construction of the Mishkan.  It is not a simple head count; Hashem says that taking a census in any other manner will result in a plague.

“When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted.   This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel…”

The weight of a half-shekel was non-negotiable. Not only were people not allowed to give less, they weren’t allowed to give more. The money collected was to be used for building the Mishkan.

It seems possible that that the half shekel count was conducted in order to know the size of our army.  In giving a half shekel a soldier is giving Hashem a ransom for his soul.  He would then receive His Divine help and protection in battle.



In Parshat Ki Tisa at 32:19 we learn abut Moses destroying the two leukot, the tablets written by Hashem that contained the Ten Commandments:

וַיַּרְא אֶת-הָעֵגֶל, וּמְחֹלֹת; וַיִּחַר-אַף מֹשֶׁה, וַיַּשְׁלֵךְ מִיָּדָו אֶת-הַלֻּחֹת, וַיְשַׁבֵּר אֹתָם, תַּחַת הָהָר

“…he saw the calf and the dances, and Moses burned with anger, and he sent the tablets from his hands, and he shattered them at the foot of the mountain”.

Somehow or other the Patriarchs had learned to read and write in Ivrit, a language with a written alphabet that contains 22 letters.

However their family connection or roots was Babylonia, in the cities of Charan and Ur where the people used cuneiform, a non-alphabetic written language that called for 100’s of symbols.

What do you think the leukot would have looked like had Avraham Avinu not made Aliyah?

About the Author
Lives in Nahariya, Israel. Interests: Torah, geology, archaeology, and anthropology. “Northern Exposure” Blog in Jerusalem Post for 3 years, co-founder of Nahariya Anglo Benevolent Society.
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