KI SEESAW, EXODUS 30:11-34:35 -- a summary
This portion and the rest of Israel's desert trek is indeed a "see-saw", ascending to the heights of eternal life in heaven and plunging to the transient depths of death upon earth. God commands a half silver shekel redemptive poll tax, the proceeds to be used for the tabernacle; Moshe's given instructions for making the last tabernacle furnishing, the copper laver, and the annointing oil and incense. Bezalel and Oholiav are to supervise the tabernacle construction, but never on Shabbat. Then God gave Moshe the Decalogue on 2 tablets; but Moshe must leave Sinai's Supreme Kollel Kodesh to redeem Israel, who made the Golden Calf in his absence. Tho God accepted Moshe's prayers not to destroy Israel, he smashed the tablets when he saw the Golden Calf Disco (cf. Eilat, Dizengoff). Moshe led the Levites in slaying 3000 ringleaders; this was followed by a a Divine plague (and protest demonstrations by the Sinai Secular Humanist Society?).
God then forgives the Jews and promises secular Zionist success-- victory and prosperity in Israel; but Moshe and Israel are grief-stricken and refuse to budge unless God will also grant the religious Zionist dream by restoring His Presence to their midst; from Israel, it will spread to the whole world and bring Man back to Himself, His Divine Image, and Eden. Moshe then merits to see God's Glory in retrospect. He's to hew two new stones and reascend Sinai alone; God reveals and describes Himself to Moshe and warns against any compromise with idolatrous Canaanites. He finishes with laws of the pilgrimage festivals. After fasting another 40 days, Moshe descended with the Decalogue on the new tablets. His face was radiant as he taught Israel.
The Haftora, IK18:1-39, portrays the conflict between Ahav and Eliyahu, whose dramatic confrontation on Mt. Carmel temporarily destroys the in-credible Baal and Ashera cults and their 850 priests. In ecstasy, the whole people twice proclaimed: The God (of infinity) is (also) The Lord (of Nature). But Judaism's triumph was shortlived.
A SHORT STUDY OF KI TISA, EX. 30:11-34:35:
Moshe's told to take a 1/2 silver shekel donation to the Tabernacle from each male counted in the military census. A copper basin for ritual washing by priests, and formulae for sacred annointing oil and incense, complete the Tabernacle instructions. CH. 31: Betzalel of Yehuda, assisted by Oholiav of Dan, is to direct the construction of the Tabernacle and all associated with it-- to sanctify space. As all the craftsmen, they're Divinely inspired. But all such work is prohibited on Shabbat-- it sanctifies Time and thus takes precedence; it's an eternal universal sign of both God's Creation and His choosing and sanctifying Israel.
CH. 32: When God finished speaking to Moshe on Sinai, He gave him two tablets of stone, written with the FINGER OF GOD. The people feared that Moshe wouldn't return from his peak experience with God. They gathered about Aharon, demanding he make them a LORD or ORACLE to lead them- God is not tangible enough for ex-Egyptian slaves. Aharon went along with the frenzied mob, made the calf, and built an altar; stalling, awaiting Moshe's return, he proclaimed: "A FESTIVAL TO GOD TOMORROW!" Early in the morning, the mob brought burnt and peace offerings, amid abandoned celebration.
God orders Moshe to descend and offers him a deal- He'll wipe out Israel and MAKE A GREAT NATION FROM HIM! Moshe rejects the offer, successfully arguing with God not to destroy His and the Patriarchs' people. Moshe then descended with God's 2 tablets (for his golden calf headache?). He was angry when he saw Aharon and the Golden Calf Disco; he cast down the tablets, breaking them! Moshe took the calf, burnt and pulverized it, and made the Jews drink a calf-and-water cocktail. Peaceful Aharon explained what happened. Truthful Moshe asked for volunteers FOR GOD- all the Leviim came. He ordered them to slay the leading idol worshippers, regardless of friendship or family ties; about 3000 died. Moshe blesses the Leviim. The next day, Moshe returns Upstairs to seek God's atonement- otherwise, He wants God to remove him from His book. Moshe's told to go back to work, to lead Israel to the Promised Land. Israel gets a suspended sentence and a plague.
CH. 33: God then repromises security and prosperity in Israel (the SECULAR Zionist dream)- but only His angel, not He, can accompany fallen Israel. The people MOURNED (for loss of their RELIGIOUS Zionist dream). Moshe now pitched his tent outside the camp; only there, did God now speak to him, FACE-TO-FACE, as friends; Yehoshua, his servant, stayed in the tent. Moshe asks God to deeply know His ways. God agrees, but even Moshe cannot see God's FACE and live. He's placed in a cleft, "near God", but sees God's glory only AFTER it passes. Sometimes we only see God's purpose long after events transpire.
CH. 34: Moshe REASCENDS SINAI alone and hews two new tablets. God reveals His attributes as He passes by: GOD, GOD, THE LORD, MERCIFUL AND GRACIOUS, SLOW TO ANGER, WITH LOTS OF LOVE AND TRUTH, KEEPING DEEDS OF LOVE FOR THOUSANDS (of generations), FORGIVING SIN, REBELLION, AND ERROR. HE DOES NOT CLEAR THE (unrepentant) GUILTY AND KEEPS THE SINS OF THE FATHERS IN MIND RE THEIR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN FOR THREE OR FOUR GENERATIONS (34:6-7).
Moshe quickly worshipped and again asked God to forgive Israel, to take them for His inheritance, and to go in their midst- otherwise he won't budge. God agrees and promises unheard of miracles (via natural means, Tzahal?)- IF Israel makes NO COVENANT with idol worshippers, and destroys all signs of idolatry, in Israel (NOT the monotheistic Arabs, but should the Israel Museum resurrect idols? Should we dialogue with Christians who deify Jesus and worship statues?). Otherwise, the Jews will intermarry and become idolators. Passover is to be observed every SPRING- no leavened food products of 5 SPECIFIC grains are allowed for 7 days. All first born domestic animals are God's; humans are redeemed and donkeys redeemed or killed.
Shabat must be kept, even in plowing and harvest times. On Shavout, we celebrate the new wheat crop (and the Decalogue-- if there's no flour, there will be no Torah). The calendar must be intercalated so the harvest festival (Succos) occurs at the turn of the year (Fall). All males must appear BEFORE GOD on their 3 agricultural holidays; God will protect their homes, wives and kids while they're gone. Leaven must be removed before the Passover sacrifice, which mustn't remain overnight. First fruits are to be brought to His House; no kid may be seethed in its mother's milk. Moshe's told (v. 27) to write these words for himself (the written covenant), by whose "MOUTH" (the oral law) is God's covenant with him and Israel (Sadducees & Karaites deny the oral law; reform, reconstructionist and most "conservative" rabbis also deny the integrity of the written law; see Git. 60b). Moshe fasts on Sinai 40 days and nights and God (34:1,28) wrote the second tablets. When Moshe descended, his face shone with Divine light; he wore a veil when he was not alone with God or delivering His Word. Per Rav Yehuda Henkin, Moshe's self-effacement brought him even closer to God (32:10ff, Num. 12:3)-- he became great by avoiding greatness.
The Haftora, I Kings 18:1-39, portrays the conflict between Ahav and Eliyahu, whose dramatic confrontation on Mt. Carmel temporarily destroys the in- credible Baal and Ashera cults and their 850 priests. In ecstasy, the whole people twice proclaimed: The God (of infinity) is (also) The Lord (of Nature). Judaism's triumph was shortlived.
If Ki Sisa is read on Shabbat Para, we read about the red heifer of purification (Num. 19:1-22) for maftir and the Haftora is Ezek. 36:16-38. Israel profaned Israel and were dispatched into terrible exile (e.g. Great Neck, Golders Green). But for the sake of God's good Great Name, He'll bring them back, purify them, and give them a new heart and spirit.
Then He'll imbue Israel with his Spirit and they'll keep his Torah, as a people unto God, in a prosperous renewed Edenic State of Israel; the Jews will feel terrible about their past. As the land fills with Jews from all over the world, all nations shall see God's Hand in human history.