Parashat Ki Tisa contains a collection of several Mitzvot regarding the Mishkan. However, the main issue of the Parasha is the sin of the Golden Calf and the smashing of the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. This episode will forever remain as a blotch in the Children of Israels biography.
The Parasha opens with the mandatory contribution of half a shekel of silver as an offering to G-d. Moses is ordered to collect the coins from every man, twenty years and above at the time of the nation. G-d tells Moses,
העשיר לא ירבה והדל לא ימעיט ממחצית השקל לתת את תרומת
The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel when giving this offering to G-d (30:15).
G-d also instructs Moses how to make the כיור, a copper wash basin that Aaron and his sons would use to wash their hands and feet prior to their service in the Tabernacle and that was placed between the tent of meeting and the altar.
In this Parasha, the children of Israel are also commanded again to keep the Shabbat. G-d orders Moses to tell the people-
...את שבתותי תשמרו כי אות היא ביני וביניכם לדרתיכם...
...You must preserve my Sabbaths, because it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations... (31:13).
When Moses did not return as expected from Mount Sinai, the Children of Israel were confused. Rashi explains that the satan or the adversary came to the Children of Israel and showed them images of darkness, gloom and confusion, implying to them that Moses had probably died on the mountain and the world therefore had been thrown into disorder.
The children of Israel then gather upon Aaron and said Arise, make us gods that will lead us, for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him (32:1). Aaron collects gold from the Children of Israel and the Golden Calf is created. The children of Israel declare,
These, Israel are your gods, that brought you up from the land of Egypt (32:4).
G-d tells Moses:
לך רד כי שחת עמך אשר העלית מארץ מצרים
Go down for your people have become corrupt, those whom you brought up out the land of Egypt (32:7).
G-d proposes to destroy the Children of Israel, who He refers to them as the stiff-necked people (32:9).
Moses pleads with G-d, asking,
למה יאמרו מצרים לאמר ברעה הוציאם להרוג אותם בהרים ולכלתם מעל פני האדמה
Why should Egypt be able to say, He brought them out with evil intent, to slay them in the mountain, and consume them from the face of the earth? (32:12)
G-d repents of the evil that He said He would do to His people and Moses descends the mountain. When Moses descends from the mountain, he carries the two tablets of the testimony, engraved with the Ten Commandments that were the work and writing of G-d. However, when Moses sees the Golden Calf and the Children of Israel dancing,
ויחר אף משה וישלך מידו את הלוחות וישבר אותם תחת ההר
Moses anger blazed and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain (32:19).
Moses then burns the Calf, grinds it to a powder, sprinkles it onto the water and makes the Children of Israel drink it. Moses stands at the gate of the camp and proclaims, Whoever is on G-ds side, let him come to me! (32: 26).
Moses returns to G-d and says that the Children of Israel have committed a great sin, but they should still be forgiven. Moses tells G-d that-
ועתה אם תשא חטאתם ואם לא מחני מספרך
And now if you do not forgive them, erase me out from your book that you have written (32:32).
Moses carves out a new set of stone tablets just like the first ones and once again ascends up the mountain. G-d then descends on the mountain and proclaims to Moses the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. Moses once more pleads with G-d, asking G-d to Pardon our iniquity and our sin (34:9). G-d accepts Moses plea and forms a covenant with the people, saying that He will perform before them marvels that have never been performed in all the earth, nor in any nation. After another forty days on the mountain, Moses descends with the two new tablets of the testimony and with a radiance emanating from his face.
What can we work on this Shabbat?
1. Our faith in G-d
2. Learning laws of Shabbat properly
3. Work on our ego- lowering ourselves
4. Giving charity
5. Being more careful to wash hands prior to prayer, eating bread and when one awakens in the morning. Look up laws for washing hands to learn more!
Have an amazing and uplifting Shabbat!