Skip to content


TorahAnytimes Newsletter Ki Tisa

Parshat Ki Tisa

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Ki Tisa                                                                    Print Version
18th of Adar I, 5782 | February 19, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yaacov Haber
Be the Hero

One of the greatest men in history, one of the greatest heroes in history and one of the greatest leaders in history is Moshe Rabbeinu. Moshe grew up in the palace of Pharaoh, as part of the royal family. He was raised by the Princess of Egypt, and there he was. He lived such a life until he was twenty years old and at twenty, the Talmud tells us, he was given bigdei malchus, royal clothing, and empowered to walk the streets of Egypt and observe the slave nation. And then he saw. A situation of abuse. He saw a downtrodden nation, the Jewish people. He saw abuse of human rights. And then he did what he did. He eventually ran away from Egypt, and the rest is history.

But let's go back for a moment. Moshe Rabbeinu was in the Palace of the King, the palace of Pharaoh for twenty years. He might have even become the Pharaoh had he stayed. Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh, was telling him and teaching him, “Moshe, you have a great future. We will give you everything you need. You will be educated. You will ask for nothing. You'll have as much power as a human being can have. We are giving you the world on a silver platter.”

But Moshe had another mother, as we know. He had his real mother, his biological mother, who through miraculous events, was hired by Pharoah to take care of Moshe. So what might have happened? Batya was talking to him the entire time, speaking into his ear and saying, “You have the whole world ahead of you,” and his biological mother was telling him, “Moshe, you're a Jew and you're destined for a different type of greatness. And everything you see around you, all the gold, the silver and the palatial space, that's not for you.” Moshe was in a position, that on some level we're all in at some point or another.

Moshe had to make a decision between one mother and his real mother. Should I go on in the House of Pharaoh and become possibly the most powerful person in the world? Everything that I need, everything that I can ever dream of is right here. Where should I go with my heart and my soul? Who am I really?
That was the decision Moshe had to make. And at twenty years old, he walked out into the streets of Egypt, and there he saw suffering and there his heart told him, “No, I'm willing to risk everything. I'm willing to give up everything I need in order to do what's right. I need to do what my heart tells me to do.” And from there, he went on to become the greatest man, the greatest prophet and the greatest leader in Israel for us.

We're always given opportunities, whether they be this way, whether they be that way, whether they be spiritual, whether they be physical. Our job is to choose and to make the correct decisions and the correct decisions are not always the easy decisions. They're not necessarily the wealthy decisions. They're not the obvious decisions, but the right decision is the right decision because the greatness that you can reach is so much more.

Now let’s fast forward … We might think that once Moshe chose the destiny of a Jew, the life of his kin, that he’d be eager to seek and obtain all the greatness he could through leading the Jewish nation. But he didn’t. He didn’t think, “So now I chose to forego the life of a prince in Egypt and decided to take up the cause and suffering of my brothers and sisters, I ought to be the leader and be in a position of power. I deserve it, after all I put aside for them. I could’ve been a great Egyptian, and now I ought to be a great and powerful Jewish leader.” Moshe had a different attitude though. Quite to the contrary.

Moshe was 80 years old and he stumbled upon a burning bush. He was a shepherd watching the flock of his father in law and had been away from Egypt for 60 years. He hadn't even seen a Jew in six decades. And suddenly there's a call from the burning bush. Hashem says, “Moshe, the time has arrived to fulfill your dream. I want you to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt.” In shock, Moshe says, “Dream,? That dream was decades ago, that dream was when I had energy, when I had political connections, when I was part of the Palace of the Pharaoh. I have a dream now? I'm old, I can't even talk. Why are you asking me now to save the Jewish people? Who are you? What is your name?”

G-d continued to explain to Moshe. “No, you are the leader of the Jewish people.” Moshe's hesitation was very, very clear. According to the Talmud, Moshe argued with Hashem for seven days, “I'm not the man, I'm unqualified, I don't have the ability, I don't have the political connections any longer. What do you want for me? Leave me alone. Pick an angel. Put my brother in charge. Pick somebody else. It's not for me.” Until Hashem finally told him, “Yes, Moshe, it is for you.”

Leadership in Israel has never been about political connections. It's never been about the ability to communicate. It's never even been about feeling that one should be the leader. Leadership in Israel is about becoming transparent and understanding that I am a messenger of G-d. And the more that Moshe spoke about his underqualifications, the more G-d said, “You are the man to do the job.”

Rav Chaim Volozhin once commented that this can be compared to a cup of water. The thicker the cup, the less water can fit into it. The thinner the walls of the cup, the more water you get to drink. Moshe’s ego had to be thin, Moshe's political presence had to be gone. The thinner the cup, the more Divine Presence of Hashem and the more holiness Moshe was able to contain. Do we want a lot of the cup or do we want a lot of water? It wasn’t about Moshe being the leader or being in charge; all the time, from the very outset, it was about Moshe seeing the suffering of others and doing what’s right. And with this, Moshe went on to lead the Jewish people until he was one hundred and twenty years old and made the greatest contribution a human being can ever make.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
Staying on the Mountain

We read in this week’s parshah about the tragic episode of the Eigel HaZahav, the Golden Calf. A chapter in the history of the Jewish people that is difficult to comprehend.

“Saru Maher – They have strayed quickly.” (Shemos/Exodus 32:8). How could it be? Bnei Yisroel just witnessed the plagues in Egypt, experienced the miraculous splitting of the sea, and tasted manna from heaven. They stood at Sinai, rose to the greatest of spiritual heights, and committed to a Torah way of life with the promise of “Na’aseh V’nishmah, We will do and we will listen”.

Our Torah is a living Torah, filled with life lessons. Our ancestors’ challenges, are our challenges. Their struggles are no different than our struggles. Through the prism of Torah, past and present merge as one.

Hillel teaches in Pirkei Avos, “Don’t believe in yourself until the day of your death”. (Ethics 2:5) While we all have the potential to achieve greatness, one should never be so self-confident as to believe that he is infallible, immune from making mistakes.

Try to imagine the Generation of the Exodus, crossing through the vast desert, not knowing what lies ahead. Moshe Rabbeinu was a source of hope and strength as he led the nation through the wilderness.

Moshe tells the people that he is climbing Sinai, ascending to the Heavens above, to accept and learn Torah directly from HaShem. He pledges to return after forty full days. Rashi explains, that through a miscalculation, Bnei Yisroel expected Moshe to return earlier. When Moshe didn’t appear as anticipated, the people began to panic. Rashi tells us how the Satan played with their emotions. The Satan brought confusion to the world, making it a dark and dreary day. Many concluded that Moshe must have died, and they were now leaderless.

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that the darkness brought upon by the Satan was depression. A depression that brought on fear, anxiety and uncertainty. These worries and doubts led the nation to the sin of the Eigel HaZahav, the Golden Calf.

Many who instigated the episode were from the “Eirev Rav” -- the “mixed multitude" that included Egyptians and others who had joined the Tribes of Israel on the Exodus. Their faith was lacking. They joined because they saw Am Yisroel as a strong power and wanted to be on “the winning team”. With Moshe not on the scene, they planted seeds of doubt, which spread panic amongst the Jewish nation.

“Make for us gods…” (Shemos/Exodus 32:1). The people turned to the Aaron, and asked him to form a god to lead the way. It was only a minority that asked for a god. But the power of persuasion is so strong, that they were able to draw others to their beliefs. There were divisions even amongst those who requested a god. There was the Eirev Rav, who were accustomed to a culture of idol worship, and were ready to worship the actual calf. Then, there was a group who felt a need for an intermediary, on which HaShem’s presence would rest. They had difficulty believing in the abstract. They wanted something tangible. Something they could see and touch. There was yet a third group, that saw the Golden Calf as an opportunity to shake off the moral discipline of Torah. A Golden Calf doesn’t come with rules or obligations. They wanted a life free of any moral or religious restrictions.

Aaron tried to stall for time, hoping for Moshe’s imminent return, which would put an end to this entire chapter. He asked the men to collect gold jewelry from their wives, sons and daughters. Aaron’s hope was that his request for the men to take their wives’ jewelry would fail, and the entire plan for creating a god would disintegrate. The righteous women did refuse to participate in this idolatrous project. However, the men who were part of the rebellion brought their own jewelry to Aaron. Aaron threw the gold into a fire, and the Egyptian sorcerers, who knew black magic, were able to form the Golden Calf from the smoldering gold.

The Daas Zekeinim points out that on first reading, it might appear that Aaron was perhaps complicit by asking for gold. But things aren’t always what they appear to be. In reality, Aaron was doing his best to hold off the people, in anticipation of Moshe’s return.

“Who will climb HaShem’s mountain, who will stand in the place of His holiness.” (Tehillim/Psalms 24:3) “Who will climb…?” My father zt”l shared an insight with me on this passage. Many start the climb to make life changes. But how many are able to remain on that mountaintop, to “stand in the place of His holiness”? We all make commitments and promises, but how many of us can maintain the momentum to fulfill and keep them.

How many times do we undertake projects of self-improvement? To become better people. To be more caring and giving. To enrich our relationships with both HaShem and with our fellow man. Even to make lifestyle changes in our diet and exercise routines. Saru maher, how quickly do we begin the descent, the return to our past habits and practices.

Moshe was overcome with pain and heartache seeing the people partying and celebrating with the Golden Calf. “He cast the Luchos, the Tablets, from his hand, and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.” (Shemos/Exodus 32:19)

Moshe returned to HaShem and pleaded on their behalf. He begged for forgiveness for the nation he loved so much. “…Please, forgive their transgression. If not, erase my name from the Holy Torah.” (Shemos/Exodus 32:32) HaShem forgave Bnei Yisroel, and Moshe received a second set of Luchos, Tablets of the Law, on the tenth of Tishrei – Yom Kippur. A day that became one of forgiveness for all generations to come.

As HaShem forgave Bnei Yisroel, so too, we should follow His ways, and be forgiving of others.
Our souls are only so big, if we fill them with negativity, with anger, resentment and bitterness, where will all the positive emotions of sharing, caring and love for one another fit in?

Each night, before going to sleep, we recite the bedtime Shema. There is a prayer prefacing the Shema, expressing words of forgiveness. “I hereby forgive anyone who angered or antagonized me or who sinned against me…..May no man be punished because of me…”

As I say this prayer each night, my heart feels lighter, the words become one with me. Words that empower us with the ability to forgive. To understand that we are all human. We all make mistakes. Yes, there are times when apologies are due, but the art of forgiveness is equally important.

I was nineteen years old, when my good friend lost her beloved father. I remember going to the shiva house. A group of us girls was sitting with our friend, when her mother called us over.

“Girls, I want to tell you something. Every night, before I went to sleep, I told my husband ‘I love you’. It didn’t matter what transpired during the day. If we had a disagreement or not, I always said ‘I love you.’ My husband passed away in his sleep. I never got to say goodbye. But I said ‘I love you.’ Girls, you are all of shidduch age, take my words to heart.”

There are many lessons to be learned from the episode of the Golden Calf. Perhaps the greatest one is that of forgiveness.

Picture of newsletter
100% free

Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter

Timely Torah insights, stories, and anecdotes from your favorite TorahAnytime speakers, delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Your email is safe with us. We don't spam.