Dvar Torah - Gabriel Sieff

Today, we look at two different Torah portions. Ki Tisa, from the book of Exodus, and Shabbat Parah, from the book of Numbers. We add in the portion of Shabbat Parah because this Shabbat is leading up to the festival of Pesach.

There are many significant themes in Ki Tisa and Shabbat Parah, but I have mainly chosen to talk about the themes in Ki Tisa, from the book of Exodus, as these ideas interest me the most. Ki Tisa talks about Moses going up Mount Sinai to talk with God. Meanwhile, at the foot of the mountain, the Jews wait impatiently for him to return. They get agitated that Moses is taking so long, and crowd around Aaron, demanding for something to pray to. Eventually Aaron builds a golden calf. Back on Mount Sinai, God notices that the Jews are praying to an Idol, gets furious, and wants to destroy the Jews for their betrayal. God then offers to make a greater nation starting again from Moses. Moses pleads with God, asking for compassion, and for the Jews not to be destroyed. God accepts Moses’ plea. Moses then goes down Mount Sinai, holding the ten commandments. But, when he sees the Jews praying to and dancing around the golden calf, he now gets enfuriated. He smashes the tablets with the ten commandments - on the ground out of anger.

There are many points of interests in this summary. I’m going to talk about a few of them. I’m going to start with the subject of expressing anger. When God saw that the Jews were praying to the golden calf, God was enraged, didn’t think about anything, and immediatley wanted to destroy the Jewish people. I think that this is a perfect example of losing your temper. All you think about is what caused your anger, and you don’t really think about what the outcome will really be. Moses does eventually persuade God to not destroy the Jews, but what’s ironic, is that later on, once Moses had actually witnessed the golden calf, he also got enfuriated and smashed the tablets on the ground. This shows that you need to experience something to really understand it. God and Moses did not set a good example, and did exactly what not to do. Once angry, they lashed out, which I believe, is definitely not the right thing to , because once lashing out, there is no undo button. Once the damage has been done, there’s no going back, and the consequences could be terrible.

The next point of interest I’m going to talk about is Moses’ decision for the fate of the Jews. Moses could’ve had a nation rebuilt, starting from himself. Why didn’t he just say to God “go ahead, destroy my people, and make a better nation starting from me.” I agree with his opinion to not destroy the Jews, because destroying people just because you don’t like their actions, or for any reason at all, is a terrible thing to do. Moses wanted to forgive them, as long as they were willing to learn and change their ways. To me, this demonstrated compassion, and a willingness for a second chance. Moses also demonstrated courage. He stood up to God, and stood for what he believed in. This shows that you don’t always have to follow the actions of someone higher than you. Just because the decisions of your leader don’t co-incinde with yours, it doesn’t mean you need to go along with that person’s decision, especially if it doesn’t go with your values. We need to speak up.

I strongly believe in all these points of interest. Controlling anger, compassion, and speaking up for your beliefs. These three themes really stood out to me in the process of preparing for today. Now that I’m Bar Mitzvah, I’d like to continue using these lessons. They seem simple, even though in reality, there are not always so easy to do. But, each one is powerful in it’s own way.

Shabbat Shalom.

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