Parashat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

“Six days shall you work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor;

you shall cease from labor even at plowing time and harvest time.”  (Exodus 334:21)

Parashat Ki Tisa contains the story of the Golden Calf, crafted by Aaron for the Israelites, who panicked when Moses didn’t return from his 40 days on the mountain with God, as he had assured them he would.  This lack of faith is the reason the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and surely is one of the better-known episodes in the Torah.   The Golden Calf has become a symbol of various “false gods” worshipped over the ages.

The tulip craze of the late 1500s, the South Sea Bubble of 1720, the Florida Real Estate Boom of the 1920s; all are examples of a society gone mad in pursuit of “gold,” and are examples of how, “…the pursuit of wealth makes us do self-destructive things.”  (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 117b)  Rabbi Jonathon Sacks, (1948- ); Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth, says when gold becomes an end in itself, rather than a means, we focus on the price of things, not the value of things.

That explains a less noticed aspect of Ki Tisa:  both immediately before and after the Golden Calf, God commands the Israelites to “make” Shabbat (Exodus 31:12-17; 35:1-3).  Sacks interprets this placement to mean God proposes Shabbat as an antidote, or remedy, to the problem of the Golden Calf.  Specifically, Shabbat is the day of the week when we focus on the value of things, not on their price.

Shabbat is a day set apart from the rest of the week to help us rebalance our lives.   It reminds us who we are is more important than what we have.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

David