Thursday, March 16, 2017

Parashat Ki Tisa ("when you take") Exodus 30:11-34:35 Parah Aduman

Parashat Ki Tisa ("when you take")   Exodus 30:11-34:35
I want to focus on the fifth Aliyah - Exodus 34:1-9 because it contains the most sensational appearance of YHVH (in a way) which captures the imagination and has birthed many a congregational hymn.

But first a side note to get a few extra points from our beloved Rabbi Yaakov.

A fairly unknown man, (only mentioned 4 times in the Bible), Betzalel, has an extraordinary association with the coming Messiah.  Exodus 31:1-11.  Betzalel played an enormous role in the building of the Temple; he was filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, “with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.” (31:3).  His name means "in the shadow of Elohim" and he was born from the tride of Judah.  Betzalel's chief assistant is Oholiab (aholi'Av), whose name means "the Father's tent" – Oholiab was born of the lowliest tribe, that of Dan, and some suggest that this was to show that before Elohim "the great and the lowly are equal".

Betzalel did everything he was commanded to do to build the sanctuary. Reminds us of a certain Yeshua HaMashiach ey.

But back to the Aliya.    It was only a few chapters ago that we read about the dreaded Golden Calf Sin.   A moment in time that is still mourned as a national tragedy.   And then Moses, in desperation, wonders when he is going to get some help, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me.” (33:12)

And then Moses makes a BIG CALL…  “Now show me your glory.”  (33:18)

What was he thinking?  The Creator of the universe, showing a mere mortal His glory?   
Sometimes when we reach boiling point or desperation, we cry out to our Maker and thankfully he doesn’t necessarily give in to our demands.   Just like a child throwing a tantrum in the shopping mall for a candy (we say lolly here in Aus), instead of reacting out of frustration, a good Father will understand and meet part of the need.

So to, when we are in the midst of confusion, He understands and meets our needs.   The Lord agrees to Moses’s request, for reassurance and only in a way that would be good, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” (33:20).

So finally we get to the fifth Aliyah.   These thirty-two words (Exod. 34:6-7) have become known in Jewish tradition as the Shelosh Esrei Middot HaRakhamim, (שָׁלוֹשׁ עֶשְׂרֵה מִידוֹת הרַחֲמִים)  the Thirteen Attributes of God's Mercy:
    "And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." (KJV)

These attributes were not just for Moses.   Earlier in Chapter 33 we see that Moses made a clear request to know God,  “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you” (v13).  How many times have we said that we want to “know God” and find His favour?  Maybe we should simply learn this Aliyah.   Any revelation of the characteristics of YHVH is for OUR benefit and for us to LIVE out.

Even more so, if these are the attributes of YHVH, and we are to be “perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” as per the words of Yeshua in Matthew 5:48, then we are also to be and show these attributes.

Are we merciful, gracious and longsuffering?  Do we do good and live/speak truth?  Do we forgive each other iniquities and late assignments?   ;)

According to various traditional interpretations, these thirteen attributes of God's Name may be understood as follows:
1.      Adonai (יהוה) - I, the LORD; I am the Compassionate Source of all of life.
2.      Adonai (יהוה) — compassion after a person has sinned;
3.      El (אֵל) - I, the LORD, am God the Almighty and Omnipotent and yet mighty in compassion to give all creatures according to their need.
4.      Rachum (רַחוּם) - I, the LORD, am merciful (rachamim (רַחֲמִים) means "mercy" and rechem (רֶחֶם) means "womb") and has compassion for those created in His image.
5.      Chanun (חַנּוּן) - I, the LORD, am gracious.
6.      Erekh Apayim (אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם) - I, the LORD, am slow to anger and patient
7.      Rav Chesed (רַב־חֶסֶד) - I, the LORD, am abundant in love – “chesed” (חֶסֶד) to both the righteous and the wicked.  Chesed is more than just “love”.  It is a deep kindness.
8.      Rav Emet (רַב־אֱמֶת) - I, the LORD, am truthful.
9.      Notzer Chesed La'alafim (נצֵר חֶסֶד לָאֲלָפִים) - I, the LORD, retain chesed (love/kindness) for thousands of generations.
10.  Nosei Avon (נשֵׂא עָוֹן) - I, the LORD, forgive iniquity.
11.  Nosei Pesha (נשֵׂא פֶשַׁע) - I, the LORD, forgive transgression.
12.  Nosei Chata'ah (נשֵׂא חַטָּאָה) - I, the LORD, forgive sin.
13.  Nakkeh (נַקֶּה) - I, the LORD, will not pardon sin for punishment, but I will clear the guilt for those who genuinely return to Me in teshuvah.
Moses finishes the Aliyah perfectly with “Although this (we) is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance.”   Amen Amen Amen.

Parah Adumah:  red heifer ashes.
“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  (Hebrews 9:13–14)
I’m a bit of a fan of Rashi – so I will indulge in this conversation that occurred circa 19th century: 
Rashi (Bamidbar 20:1), quoting Rabbi Ami (Moed Katan 28a), asks why the death of Miriam is juxtaposed to the laws of the Parah Adumah –the Red Heifer –in the Torah, and answers: “Just as sacrifices atone, so do the deaths of tzadikim.” 

Rav Itzeleh then asks: “Why does the Torah choose this sacrifice to teach this lesson? There are many other sacrifices that atone. Furthermore, the Red Heifer is somewhat of a non-standard sacrifice – it is offered outside the Beit Hamikdash, and is used to purify one who has come in contact with the dead, not to atone his sin.”

Rashi answers that there is a parallel between the ashes of the Parah Adumah and the legacy of great tzadikim (a great righteous person).

Other atonement sacrifices must be brought by the Israelite, but the rest of the work is done by the Kohanim. It is the Kohanim who sprinkle the blood on the altar and eat the sacrificial meat: “The Kohanim eat and the owner gets atonement” (Yoma 68b). But in order for the Parah Adumah to be effective, there is still work to be done by the Israelite. He must get sprinkled by the Parah Adumah ashes mixed with water.  The atonement brought about by the tzadik’s (red heifer/righteous person) passing, says Rav Itzeleh, requires work by the rest of the Jewish people. All must now take from his character traits and learn from his actions – and, if possible, learn from the Torah left over in this world.

Iyov (14:4): “Mi yitein tahor mitamei … ?” = “Who can transform something tamei (ritually impure) into something tahor (ritually pure) ?” Such a transformation is truly “supernatural” — i.e., above the laws of nature. For nature (and common sense) would dictate that something that is tamei would stay tamei – dead stays dead. Thus, this Midrash Rabbah of Parshah Chukat is expressing amazement at the whole phenomenon of transforming tum’ah (tum’ah) into tahara (ritual purity)   .  The example cited is the case of Abraham. For, reflect on it. Is it not amazing that an Avraham could emerge from a father like Terach? The Midrash responds to its question (“Who … ?”): Only HaShem, Yechido Shel Olam (“The Singular One in the Entire World”), could create a world in which such a transformation is possible. The message is clear. We should regard the whole phenomenon of spiritual and ritual purification with awe and with gratitude.

It is true.  Only HaShem has the power to truly change our lives.


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