Text: Exodus 30:11 - 34:35
Parashat (Torah portion) Ki Tisa contains the infamous episode of the Golden Calf. Moses went up the mountain to receive the inscribed stone tablets, and the people became impatient awaiting his return. They begged Aaron to make them a god. Aaron instructed them to bring their gold rings, earrings, and necklaces, and Aaron made a molten calf from the metals. The people began offering sacrifices to their bovine idol and dancing around it. God told Moses to get down from the mountain quickly and warn the people that their idolatry was about to bring God’s wrath upon them. Moses argued with God: “Why does your anger wax hot against Your people that You brought out of Egypt? Why would you have the Egyptians say, ‘The evil God brought the Israelites out from here to slay them in the mountains’? Turn from Your wrath and repent of this evil you would do against Your own people!”
God did repent for the wrath which would have caused the deaths of the entire Israelite people. Moses descended the mountain to chastise the people himself: he smashed the tablets, furious with his brother Aaron, asking him, “What did this people do to you that you let them commit such a great sin?” Aaron tries to abdicate responsibility, but Moses succeeds in decreasing God’s punishment of the people from destroying the entire camp to only a small portion of the people, those who participated most actively in worshipping the idol. Moses returns to the mountain for forty days and forty nights to receive the second set of tablets, which the Israelites finally receive at the very end of the portion.
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Parashat Ki Tisa: Print