Friday, February 22, 2019

Random Musing Before Shabbat–Ki Tisa 5779–A Tale of Two Tablets

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Consider:

  • A census
  • A protection racket run by G”d based on that census. (Each must pay the tax as a ransom to avoid the plague)
  • G’d changes the description of the half-shekel payment per head from ransom to offering.
  • The tax/offering/ransom shall be the same 1/2 shekel for rich and poor alike (insert that now well-known picture of the three folks trying to watch a baseball game over an outfield fence illustrating the difference between equal and equitable/fair.)
  • The half-shekel (compulsory) offering is to be used for unspecified Tent of Meeting expenses.
  • Build a laver and stand so that Aharon and his sons may properly wash their hands and feet before entering the Tent of Meeting
  • Mix a whole lot of myrrh, cinnamon, aromatic cane, cassia, and olive oil to create a sacred anointing oil.
  • Anoint all the physical objects in the Tent of Meeting (including the tent itself) with the anointing oil.
  • Anoint Aharon and his sons with the sacred oil as well.
  • Do not use the anointing oil on anyone or anything else.
  • Do not even make anything similar to the anointing oil.
  • Oh wait, make this too: combine three herbs - stacte, onycha, and galbanum – and mix them with pure Frankincense, all in equal proportions, and make an incense powder to place before the tablets of the pact inside the tent of Meeting
  • Don’t use this incense powder for anything else.

  • G”d designates the artisan Betzalel, whom G”d has endowed with special creative skills, to oversee the creation of the Mishkan, and also assigned Oholiab, also endowed with special skills  to assist, plus a bunch of other unnamed folks also endowed by G”d with special skills.
  • G”d tells Moses to tell the Israelites to keep Shabbat throughout all time as a sign that G”d has consecrated Israel
  • Shabbat violators shall be put to death
  • V’shamru…and all that jazz
  • G”d gives Moses the two original tablets of the pact which G”d has personally inscribed
  • Meanwhile, back in the camp, the natives have grown restless at the long absence of Moses
  • The people ask Aharon to make an idol
  • Without even a second thought, Aharon asks for everyone’s earrings and other items of gold, and make a golden calf idol.
  • The people proclaim the calf idol as the G”d who brought them out of Egypt
  • Aharon builds an altar before the idol and proclaims that tomorrow will be a big festival
  • The next morning the people make offerings ont he altar to the golden calf idol.
  • Up on Mt. Sinai, G”d tells Moses what the people have done and urges him to hurry down so that G”d can unleash anger and fury on the people
  • Moses tries to slow G”d’s roll once again playing the vanity card. How would it look to have delivered the people from Egypt only to destroy them in the wilderness?
  • Moses establishes the basis for the first prayer of the Amidah by asking G”d to renounce the plan to destroy the Israelites for the sake of the merit of the patriarchs. Moses reminds G”d of the promise to make their descendants as numerous as the stars, and give them the promised land as an inheritance.
  • G”d is persuaded and holds off.
  • Moses heads down the mountain with the two tablets, and bumps into the waiting Joshua who says he hears cries of war from the camp. Moses tells Joshua it is not  the war sounds of victory or defeat, but the sound of song.
  • Once Moses was able to see the camp and what was going on, he throws down the two tablets which shatter on the ground.
  • Moses takes the calf idol , burns it, and grinds it down to powder.
  • Moses asks Aharon “WTF made you do this?”
  • Aharon answers “chill bro – it was all the people’s fault – you know how evil they are. They asked me to make an idol, since they weren’t sure you were coming back anymore. I don’t know who has access to my phone.” (when you read this years from now you probably won’t get it. Google Roy Cohen and hearing on 2/21/2019.)
  • Moses could see the people were out of control and that it was Aharon’s fault.
  • Moses stands at the camp “gate” and says “all those who are for G”d come here.” The Levites all come (did that include Aharon and his sons?) Moses instructs them to go through the camp slaying people (yes, the instruction really is that vague.)
  • The Levites go throughout the camp and (randomly?) slay about 3,000 people.
  • Moses asks the people to dedicate themselves to G”d.
  • Next day, Moses tells the people they have sinned greatly, but he will head back up Mt. Sinai to plead with G”d on their behalf.
  • Moses tells G”d “hey, the people really effed up. Forgive them, or destroy me with them.”
  • G”d says only sinners will be called to account. (Hmmm.)
  • God says to Moses to go lead the people away from Sinai and off to the promised land. An angel shall lead the way
  • G”d sent a plague to the Israelites to punish them for the sin they committed with Aharon.
  • G”d reiterates the command to go forth to the land G”d promised to the patriarchs. An angel will lead you, and G”d will drive out the people in your way, and lead you to a land flowing with milk and honey.
  • But I, G”d, won’t go in your midst, because you piss Me off a lot, and I just might destroy you if I’m there.
  • The people mourned upon hearing this chastisement, and took off their nice clothes (apparently, for the remainder of the trip.)
  • [When the Israelites stopped and made camp] Moses would pitch the Tent of Meeting outside the camp – at some distance. Apparently anyone could go and meet with G”d there. (Hmmmm…)
  • When Moses went out to the Tent, everyone in the camp would rise, stand, and watch.
  • When Moses entered the tent, G”d came down in a pillar of cloud. The people all bowed down.
  • G”d would speak to Moses face to face in the tent, like one human to another. when Moses left the tent and returned to camp, Joshua, Moses’ attendant (squire?) remained in the tent. (Was Joshua there all the time?)
  • Moses asks G”d that if Moses is to lead the people forward as commanded who is G”d sending to lead them. Moses reminds G”d that G”d has told him he looks upon Moses favorably. So…answer the question, please.
  • G”d caves and tells Moses that G”d will take point.
  • Moses tells G”d “unless You lead us, we won’t go. How else will other peoples know that you have singled us out?
  • G”d reiterates willingness to go in the lead because Moses has earned G”d’s favor.
  • Moses, emboldened, says “Let me see You.”
  • G”d says okay, but there are conditions. You can’t see my face and live, so go stand by that rock. I will pass before you. As I do I will shield you with My hand. Once passed, I’ll move my hand and you can see my ass.
  • G”d instructs Moses to carve two tablets like the first and bring them on up the mountain where G”d will inscribe them
  • G”d does the passing by of Moses so Moses can “see” G”d and takes the opportunity to self describe as
    • The LORD! the LORD! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations
  • Yeah. Right.
  • Moses repeats the request that G”d lead them in recognition of the favor that Moses has earned from G”d.
  • G”d says “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
  • G”d reiterates that the people in the way of the Israelites will be driven out before them.
  • G”d warns the people to not take up the ways and practices of those people, let they become ensnared and start parying to their idols.
  • G”d repeats : don’t make any idols
  • G”d says: observe the Passover festival
  • First-born animals are G”d’s.
  • Observe Shavuot
  • Three times a year all males must come to appear before G”d. G”d will make it safe for you to do so by driving out the other peoples in your way.
  • Use nothing leavened in sacrifices involving blood.
  • Bring all first fruits as an offering to G”d
  • Don’t boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
  • G”d tells Moses to write the commandments, and Moses spends 40 days doing so, neither eating nor drinking.
  • When finished, Moses comes down the mountain with the tablets of the pact, unaware that his face is glowing. Everyone else notice, and they shied away from Moses.
  • Moses called them together and they came, and Moses passed on G”d’s instructions. when he was done, Moses covered his face with a veil.
  • When Moses met with G”d in the Tent, he would leave the veil open when he came out so the people could see the radiance. Then he would cover his face with the veil until the next time he went to meet with G”d.

Now, this is a truly lazy musing. All I’ve done is iterate the content, albeit with a bit of snark here and there. Every one of these bullet points is worthy of its own musing, its own discussion. Some of them are plain (but that doesn’t mean they make sense in either an ancient or modern context) and some of them are obscure. Some of them make you scratch your head and some of them make you slap your knee. What isn’t written here (though often indicated by the snark and other comments, or choice of phrase) are the many thoughts about each and every one of these bullet points that raced through my mind as I assembled this list. My hope is that thoughts will race through your mind as you encounter them. If you’d like to do it without my bias, then go direct to the source. I can practically guarantee you’ll find your mind racing with thoughts, reactions, responses, questions, and more, no matter which route you choose.

Shabbat Shalom,

Adrian
©2019 by Adrian A. Durlester

Other Musings on this parasha:

Ki Tisa 5778 - Re-souling Ourselves Revisited
Ki Tisa/Shabbat Parah 5777 - Reruns (choose any of the musings below)
Ki Tisa 5776 - It Didn't Matter
Ki Tisa 5775 - Shabbat Is A Verb II
Ki Tissa 5774 - Faith Amnesia (and Anger Management)
Ki Tissa/Shabbat Parah 5773 - Fortune and Men's Eyes (Redux and Revised)
Ki Tisa 5772 - Other G"d?
Ki Tisa 5771 - Still Waiting for the Fire
Ki Tisa 5770 - A Fickle Pickle
Ki Tisa 5768-Not So Easy? Not So Hard!
Ki Tisa/Shabbat Parah 5767-New Hearts and New Spirits
Ki Tisa/Shabbat Parah 5766-Fortune and Men's Eyes
Ki Tisa 5765-Re-Souling Ourselves
Ki Tisa 5764-A Musing on Power Vacuums
Ki Tisa 5763-Shabbat is a Verb
Ki Tisa 5762-Your Turn
Ki Tisa 5760-Anger Management
Ki Tisa 5761-The Lesson Plan