This week’s Parasha (story) is famous especially since it tells us the terrible story of The Golden Calf, however, the story of The Golden Calf follows few stories that are, seemingly, unrelated to the main story, what is the purpose of these stories?
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Half a Shekel Contribution
Parashat Ki-Tisa (Parashat – The story of) opens with the words: “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay God a ransom for his life at the time he is counted’. This is how most translations translate this verse (Exodus 31:12); although, the Hebrew words “ki tisa” mean, simply, ‘when you raise’ and not ‘when you count’ or ‘when you take census’ and the commentators ask why the Torah does not choose a command expression, such as “count all of the Israelite”?
The Zohar explains that when we count things we limit. ‘To count’, liSPoR (לספור) in Hebrew, is from the word SePhaR or SaPaR (/חתך/ספר/גבול – border/frontier/cut), meaning that whenever we count we limit the Light of life. Focusing on counting our blessings takes the bliss out of it. Hence, we need to be busy with how can we add virtues and good deeds into our lives and not to dwell on those we already have. When we are focused too much on what we have achieved in the past we are in danger of limiting more growth, creativity and success.
Whenever we question how come our gains are not in direct proportion to our efforts, we actually counting our virtues redeem and waste them. Hence, and according to the Zohar, we need to focus on the efforts and on our goals and leave the accountings to The Creator since we never know how much effort is really needed in order to remove Bread of Shame in a way that will reward us real success.
The procedure of the census in the desert was done not by counting people but by counting the contributions they’ve made, half a Shekel per person – “Each one … is to give a half shekel, according to the Holy shekel, which weighs twenty Gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to God” (Exodus 30:13).
During Biblical times the Shekel was divided into twenty units, meaning half a Shekel is ten units. The number 10 is the letter Yod (י) – the symbol of perfection of the Tree of Life and it’s ten Sephirot. The word Yod (יוד) contains the letter י of the ten Sephirot and the letters ו (Vav – 6 in six) and ד (Dalet – 4) that together adds into ten – this is in order to teach us a very powerful lesson: Every time we want to connect to The Light, it has to be through a process that is involved with 20 Sephirot (10+10).
The first ‘ten’ stand for “I want” – our desire to receive, however, the laws of our universe do not allow us to be constantly in a state of “I want”, which is the frequency of ending and death – the opposite to endless and life. Focusing on our desires only, draws Light that is called ‘Direct Light’. Connecting to ‘Direct Light’ only is disastrous and it has the effect of a short circuit, burning and destruction. In order to connect to life and to The Light, the source of life in a constructive way, we need to create ten Sephirot of “returning Light” – the power of giving and sharing to our fellowman. If we want to receive the entire infinite abundance of The Creation we also have to share back, and the more we desire the abundance the more we need to give back and to create a greater ‘returning Light’ for our fellowmen.
The Half Shekel that the Israelites used to give every year is the connection to the ‘Returning Light’ that helped them to gain great strength that keeps abundance and bliss within. This Light is the vessel that holds the bliss – a vessel made of the power of giving, sharing and total devotion.
Ki Tisa, ‘When you raise’, this is the Mitsva to heal ourselves by raising above selfishness, raising ourselves 10 levels of the ‘Returning Light’.
The Golden Calf Syndrome – The Disease and Its Remedy
Parashat Ki Tisa tells the famous story of The Golden Calf. Although this event happened some 3,400 years ago, The Golden Calf is the symbol of humanity’s race for vanity and selfishness. This race leads always to destruction, pain and loss. The reason that the Parasha starts with the story of The Half Shekel is that the consciousness of The Half Shekel carries the healing for humanities disease called ‘The Golden Calf Syndrome’ – teaching us that creating a ‘Returning Light’ in our lives by giving and sharing, and also when it is not so comfortable to do so, is the way for creating the Light that will protect us from failures, defeats and death.
Connecting to The Half Shekel Today
Giving Half Shekel is a tradition that continued along the generations. The time for it is before or during Purim. The amount is the worth of 10 grams (0.353 Ounces) of pure Silver. On March, 2012 this is 42.43 Israeli Shekels or $11.2 USD.
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The Qetoret (Ketoret)
After the ‘Half Shekel’ story, we have one of the most powerful and mystical stories in the whole Torah that is the story of The Temple’s Incense (Exodus 30:34-38). The Zohar is teaching us that reading or scanning and contemplating this story 3 times a day has tremendous powers of protection. Obviously, this is another remedy for the ailments of The Golden Calf Syndrome we all suffer from.
The Thirteen Attributes
After The Sin of The Golden Calf Moses’ reaction can be a very power lesson for us. The immediate reaction of most people to a failure of such magnitude (This is a failure for Moses as a leader) is guilt, despair, anger etc, However, Moses response is totally out of the box, his response is the most amazing example for the ultimate spiritual response to a disaster. Moses is praying to The Creator saying, what we can summarize in few words: ‘All that You have given us by now has proven itself as insufficient in order to remove evil from people’s hearts, please give us something more powerful.’
The Creator in response is giving Moses what is known as The Secret of The Thirteen attributes. The ability to draw healing and cleansing from the highest realms – The Keter, while The Torah can bring the powers of healing from Zeir Anpin only.
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