Ki Tissa (Ex. 30:11 – 34:35)

It’s March.  It still feels like February.

I think I’m losing it.  A few days ago, during a brief discussion about how the chorus sometimes gets into a piece very quickly while it takes us a while to warm up to some others, I likened the situation to a strep infection, which hits you very quickly, versus a staph infection, which takes longer to be noticed while it does its dirty work and could cause more damage.  Yesterday, I wondered on Facebook if the spate of pretty snow scene photos posted there at the end (IhopeIhopeIhopeIhopeIhope) of this miserable winter might be a manifestation of Stockholm SyndromeBut there’s hope.  I looked at the forecast for the next month, and, starting Sunday, no daily highs below 40°F were expected.

This week’s portion, Ki Tissa, starts out with the instructions for the half-shekel donation that we read about on Shabbat Shekalim, recipes for the anointing oil and incense, appointment of Bezalel and Oholiab as lead artisans for the Tabernacle, and (yet another) admonition to obey to Sabbath. 

Then we get to the dreaded, but exciting, part.  The people apparently can’t count, or else everyone misunderstood when Moses would be back: after 40 complete days or on the 40th day?  When they think he’s late, they immediately panic, Aaron asks for their gold jewelry, melts it, makes a golden statue of a young bull, puts an altar before it, and proclaims a festival for the Lord for the next day.  The next day, the people worship it with “dance” and sacrifices.  The Lord threatens to destroy the people.  Moses talks the Lord out of it (bad PR) but then goes down and sees for himself.  He smashes the tablets, grinds the statue into dust, strews it on water, and makes the people drink it.  Moses asks Aaron what happened and Aaron replies with the lamest of excuses:  The people forced him to make a god to lead them and when he threw their gold into the fire, the golden calf jumped out.  On Moses’ order, the Levites kill 3000 rioters and the Lord sends a plague to punish the apostates.  Moses manages to patch up relations between the Lord and the people and raises his own relationship with the Lord to a new level, as he is allowed to see the back of the Lord.  Then Moses goes up the mountain again to carve two new tablets, and the portion concludes with a statement of the covenant and stern warnings not to worship any other god, nor get too cozy with the current inhabitants of the Promised Land.  And then there are several more laws as the portion concludes. 

We also read what is referred to as the Thirteen Attributes of God’s Compassion (34:6-7): “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed: “The Lord! the Lord! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, 7 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.”  The part up to “sin” occurs in our liturgy on festivals and Yom Kippur.  But, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out in “Can there be Compassion without Justice?” (Thanks, Rich, for flagging this), punishment is necessary along with forgiveness.  He cites studies that find that subjects” who believe in a punitive God cheat and steal less than those who believe in a forgiving God… Those who focus on Divine forgiveness are more likely to practice human retribution or revenge. It was thus necessary to teach the Israelites that consequences would include both forgiveness and punishment. 

If you want some more excitement, the haftarah, 1 Kings 18:1-39 (Sephardim: 20-39) is the one where Elijah shows up the Baal worshipers when heavenly fire strikes and consumes his sopping wet offering on an equally wet altar and the people proclaim “The Lord is the God!”  Not that they remembered that very long, however.  Ah, well.

Shabbat shalom,


Parshas Ki Sisa – On One Foot      JULY 9, 2006

Jews make The Golden Calf and everybody sins

Moshe: “I got some good news and some bad news:

The bad news is… I’m breaking the luchos [tablets]

The good news is…I just saved a half a shekel on my car insurance”



tph one golden calf


Personal Trainer Impressed By Man’s Improved Excuses
NEWS IN BRIEF • Local • Health • Fitness • ISSUE 51•02 • Jan 13, 2015

SAN JOSE, CA—Acknowledging that the progress made in such a short amount of time was remarkable, Club One Fitness personal trainer Logan Kaiser told reporters Tuesday he is very impressed by the improvement in both the strength and consistency of his client’s excuses. “He’s starting to come along; a few months ago he had really weak pretenses for not sticking to a workout plan, but he’s put in a lot of effort and now he’s sporting much more robust and powerful justifications,” said Kaiser of 36-year-old software engineer Jeffrey McGann, noting that the gym member’s exculpatory anecdotes had already tripled in size and were becoming far more difficult to verify. “After seeing how he struggled early on with a simple excuse about traffic, it’s gratifying to see him push himself and dig deep for rationalizations that more believably exonerate him. And you can tell it’s gotten a lot easier. His total commitment to tackling a long, grueling story about how construction in his neighborhood aggravated his dust mite allergies was outstanding.” At press time, Kaiser expressed concern after learning that McGann would be unable to make it to the gym due to an unspecified workplace emergency.


tph peter-mueller-moses-hands-down-easy-to-swallow-tablets-new-yorker-cartoon


The Mother of All Excuses Place

Breaking Dates and Relationships Excuses

I’m sorry so sorry….. but I have to break our date! Most of us have heard that one before. Well here is a place to find a new one or put out ones that you have given or received. Please send yours in today! [Some of those that were sent in are below.]

  1. I cannot go out with you tonight because I need to start spending more time with my blender.
  2. I can’t go out with you tonight because my husband Tony has told me that if he finds out that I am seeing someone else I’m gonna wake up with their head on my pillow, did I mention that my husband’s in the Mafia?
  3. My boyfriend said this to me when we split up “I can’t see you anymore, my mom said so.” Sad thing is, he is 25.
  4. Him: How about going out on Friday Night? Her: I’m sorry, I’m washing my hair that night.  Him: Well, how about Saturday?  Her: It has to dry.
  5. Believe it or not this actually worked. I had this girl that would not leave me alone, even though I told her that it was over. Finally one day I got so tired of her I told her I can not see her because my goldfish drowned and there were so many memories. I never saw her again.
  6. “I can’t go out with you tonight as I have to wash my cat.”
  7. I’m really sorry I can’t go out with you tonight, because the Mother Ship only visits once 25 years.


Yes, you can buy THE incense on the web.  $25 for ½ ounce up to $325 for a pound.     “It is made in accordance to scripture references in Exodus 30:30-37.  It is salted and has been ground into a fine powder that is to be sprinkled over hot charcoal.   Larger (than 1 lb) quantities are available by request.


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