Parashat Ki Tisa / פרשת כי תשא

Crop of Moses Destroys the Tables of the Ten Commandments by Joseph James Jacques Tissot


Parashat Ki Tisa is the 21st weekly reading in the annual Torah reading cycle, and the ninth reading of Shemot (“Exodus”). Ki Tisa (כִּי תִשָּׂא) is Hebrew for When You Take, the sixth and seventh words of the parashah, which begins with HaShem’s (The Name, I.e. of G-d) instructions to Moshe (Moses) pertaining to what must be done when a census is taken of Bnei Yisrael (the Children of Israel), and why.

The parashah proceeds with HaShem’s instructions pertaining to the making and use of Kiyor Nikhoshet (the Bronze Basin), including how long the related instructions remain in effect, and continues with HaShem’s instructions pertaining to the Shemen Mishkhat Kodesh (Holy Anointing Oil), who and what is to be anointed with it, what becomes of them, and what becomes of those who come in contact with them. Further instructions are also provided for the making of the Ketoret (Incense), which is to be burned on the Mizbeakh (Altar) in Ohel Moed (the Tent of Meeting). Prohibitions are given for the making and use of both the Shemen and the Ketoret, as well as the consequence of ignoring said prohibitions.

After this, the parashah records HaShem’s appointment of those who are to perform the work of creating the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and all of its furnishings. HaShem calls two men in particular by name, whom He has equipped to do the work, together with all the men of Yisrael whom HaShem has enabled to assist them. The record includes a review of the furnishings and garments that are to be made.

HaShem’s instructions about the creation of the Mishkan are followed immediately by an emphatic reiteration of His instructions pertaining to His Shabbatot (Sabbaths), including who is commanded to keep them, for what purpose, in what way, until when, as well as the consequences for failing to do so. After Moshe receives all of these instructions from HaShem, he then also receives Lukhot HaEdut (the Tablets of the Testimony) from HaShem, written by the finger of Elokim (G-d).

Meanwhile, however, the impatience of the people encamped at the foot of Sinai has given birth to a sin so grievous that HaShem is ready to destroy the people altogether, if not for the intercession of Moshe. When Moshe sees the rebellion of the people for himself, having descended to the foot of Sinai, he is so angry that he breaks the tablets he has just received from HaShem. What follows includes the death of about 3,000 men and the ordination of the Levi’im (Levites) for the service of HaShem, which is bestowed upon them because of their zeal for HaShem. Moshe returns to HaShem the next day in an attempt to make atonement for the people and the parashah records HaShem’s response, including a great cause for morning on the part of Bnei Yisrael.

Parashat Ki Tisa continues with a record of the wonderful way in which HaShem would speak to Moshe at Ohel Moed (the Tent of Meeting), which Moshe setup outside the camp, and at which the people would inquire of HaShem. There Moshe appeals to HaShem, interceding for the nation. Because of the khen (grace/favour) that he finds in the eyes of HaShem, his petition, which the parashah records, is granted. In all of this, HaShem reveals much about His character in what He says and does, especially in the proclamation of His Name before Moshe when he returns to the top of Sinai to meet with HaShem. This proclamation includes what are famously known as HaShem’s thirteen attributes of mercy. The truth about HaShem’s justice, however, is also proclaimed at this time.

The covenant between HaShem and Bnei Yisrael is therefore restored, in accordance with the words that are recorded by Moshe toward the end of the parashah. Likewise is another set of Lukhot given. The parashah concludes with an amazing thing that happens to Moshe as a result of speaking with HaShem.

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Torah Portion: Exodus 30:11 – 34:35

1st Aliyah: Exodus 30:11-31:17 (45 verses)
2nd Aliyah: Exodus 31:18-33:11 (47 verses)
3rd Aliyah: Exodus 33:12-16 (5 verses)
4th Aliyah: Exodus 33:17-23 (7 verses)
5th Aliyah: Exodus 34:1-9 (9 verses)
6th Aliyah: Exodus 34:10-26 (17 verses)
7th Aliyah: Exodus 34:27-35 (9 verses)
Maftir: Exodus 34:33-35 (3 verses)

Special Maftir
Shabbat Parah: Numbers 19:1-22 (22 verses)

Reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets):

Traditional Ashkenazi Haftarah: I Kings 18:1 – 18:39
Traditional Sephardic Haftarah: I Kings 18:20 – 18:39

When Parashat Ki Tisa coincides with a special Shabbat,
a different Haftarah is traditionally read:

Shabbat Parah: Ezekiel 36:16 – 36:38

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