Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Ki Tisa – “When you take” (“When you lift up”) Torah: Shemot 30:11-34:35
Haftarah: Melechim Aleph 18:1-39
The unofficial motto of the military is, “Hurry up, and wait!”. It is definitely easy to get impatient while waiting upon the next step, the next official piece of business. Society is geared toward productivity, efficiency, and the bottom-line. History says, 'Waste not, Want not'. Even the Scriptures talk about 'Redeeming the time'.
In order to try to put all of these decrees into proper perspective, I decided to not waste time while waiting for our unit physical fitness test. Since I had plenty of time before the test, I departed the unit office and went to the shop and completed a small project. I returned to the unit office to find that the test had already started, and I had failed to accomplish my priority mission for that day – the test. Needless to say, even though I had gone above and beyond the call of duty (completed an extra task), I had fallen far short of my required duties.
Our Scripture reading for this week, Ki Tisa, has some parallels to my afore-mentioned situation. The first parallel is not in the actual reading of the counting of the numbering of the people, but in King David's error during a repeat performance. Rashi suggests that numbers tend to bring misfortune – that when David numbered the people, he sinned and his heart convicted him.
Whether the sin was counting the people, or the attitude that 'all these people' were David's mighty army, it matters not. The key issue is that getting ahead of G-d is dangerous. This has been proven time and time, again. Other parallels include Aaron's self-promotion to priest, the collection of Israel's gold (for the calf), and the actual manufacturing of the golden calf.
HaShem had proclaimed that Aaron was to be His priest, but Aaron did not know that fact. He jumped the gun, and with his limited understanding, got the focus of the whole nation on a warped concept of G-d. The gold that was collected was used for a visual representation of their G-d, but man's idea of that representation could in no wise be an accurate one – “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways, saith the L-rd” (Isa 55:8-9).
While a calf was a more tangible representation of G-d, it was not more realistic. We so often get caught up in the appearance of things, than the actual value. Israel contributed all that gold to make an elaborate golden calf idol – a thing of beauty – on a whim. The bitter truth, is that what G-d wanted from them was their heart, their obedience. He gave them back their gold – they had to eat it!
In round two, they would have G-d tabernacling with them, not just some substandard idol to remind them that they were miraculously redeeming them from Egypt. The collection of the half-shekel was more than plenty to provide for the service of the tabernacle. By the use of these funds, the priests made purchases of the daily sacrifices – every person in Israel had a share in the sacrifices.
HaShem was their G-d. He took the time to give them details on how to become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, but they grew impatient waiting for these details, and started off in their own direction. The Torah states that when Moshe and Joshua came down from the mountain, they heard a tumult. They had a hard time determining what kind of sound it was, whether of war's victory or war's defeat. As they drew closer, they determined that it was the sound of music and singing. There was much confusion in the sounds and the actions. According to Shemot 32:25, Aaron had let the people get out of control / unbridled / running wild / unruly / broken loose / acting shamefully before the Nations, rather than being the light to them. It reminds me of the reference in Mishlei about the 'strange woman'. There are two sources of this strangeness – 1) One who is outside G-d's people, thus being strange to His ways, and 2) One of G-d's people, who has become ensnared by evil actions/habits. (And before we jump up judging, let us remember Galatians 6:1 & Hebrews 12:1, which remind us of how easy we can be weighed down.)
G-d's people had lost track of all He had done, and had broken their covenant with Him, even before they received the copy. Moshe interceded for the people and refused to allow any further compromises – he would not accept G-d's destruction of Israel, he would not accept becoming the New Israel, and he would not accept going to the promised land without the leadership of HaShem (even with the guarantee of success). Moshe claimed the fallen nation as his people, and stood by them to the point that he chose to receive the same punishment as the whole nation.
HaShem did not cast them off. He forgave them and restored them to their covenantal standing. He reminded them of some of the high points. Moshe had to carve the tablets to receive the replacement copy of their covenant, and spent another forty days on the mountain to get all the details. Moshe was persistent with G-d, and G-d heard.
As Moshe talked with HaShem, his face shone. I think that that was a reminder that as we seek His face, actively standing in the gap between Him and His people, our lives will become that visible testimony of what a difference He makes. May our lives be so noticeable!