Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parasha #21: Ki Tissa (When you take) Sh’mot (Exodus) 30:11-34-35
Haftarah: M’lakhim Alef (1 Kings) 18:20-39
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:35-8:1
Ki Tisa actually means (When you elevate) related to the census that was taken whereby half a shekel was collected from each male over 20 years old. Coins rather than heads were counted. Taking the census indicated a change in the status of the nation Israel. It is now elevated for the holy purpose of cleansing the Promised Land. The monetary payment enabled each individual, no matter what their economic status, to be numbered with the army without incurring sin (Ex. 30:14-15). Although the census was commanded during Moshe’s 40 days on Sinai, it was not instituted until Numbers 1:3. The kofer was an offering to atone for their lives given by one for taking human life in circumstances that did not constitute murder. Here is a perfect example that going to war and defending ones’ land, home, and family at the possible cost of killing an enemy is not murder according to G-d’s standards. In modern times, this means that being a conscientious objector is not a valid reason to avoid going to war. Paying the offering at the time the individual is called to service provides the atonement for any death at the hands of the individual.
The cliché and claim that “nothing is written in stone” falls by the wayside as we learn that Moshe returned from the mountain with the tablets of the testimony which are in stone and inscribed by the finger of G-d (Ex. 31:18). His words remain just as valid as the day they were inscribed, and this fact should provide the believer with a level of peace and comfort that does not waiver. Learning what G-d expects of us and internalizing His Word should be one of our main objectives in life, for the Torah is our life (Deut. 32:47).
Moshe threw the first tablets down in his frustration with the people who so quickly turned from G-d and chose to idolize a golden calf. The marriage contract had been broken and now Adonai instructed Moshe to cut two more tablets of stone that He would inscribe as He did the first two tablets. When G-d reconciles with his “wife,” we learn that Moshe had to make the effort to cut the stones; they were not just lying around for him to pick up. He broke them so he was responsible to cut others. We learn from this that reconciliation requires action on our part. The marriage contract was rewritten, and the covenant was re-consecrated at Sinai. Israel had to pay for the actions of 3,000 idolaters when G-d struck the people with a plague.
G-d proclaimed His Name before Moshe as YHVH “(Adonai is G-d). He warns the people through Moshe that they [and we] are not to bow down to any other god; “since Adonai-whose very name is Jealous-is a jealous G-d.” They [and we] are not to make a covenant with the people of the land because they will serve as a snare. Intermarriage between the Israelites and the other nations is forbidden because the pagans will seduce the Israelites to prostitute themselves, offering sacrifices to other gods. If we think we are immune to such seduction, read 1 Kings:11. Even Solomon fell for the seduction of his many pagan wives which ultimately caused the loss of the Kingdom of Israel. G-d warned the Israelites that anyone they appointed as king was not to acquire many horses, wives, or excessive quantities of silver and gold (Deut. 17:17). This is good advice for everyone for the concept implies excess in anything. Recall what happened when the Israelites tried to hoard manna (Ex.16:20).
Chapter 33 addresses the continual process of ascending to G-d. Although G-d is so angry with the Israelites that He withdraws Himself and sends an angel to go ahead of them, at Moshe’s consistent pleading on behalf of the people G-d relents and agrees to send His presence (33:14) to accompany them. We see a glimpse of Moshe’s unselfishness. He pleads on behalf of the people. He cannot bear to be banished from fellowship with G-d to the point he asks G-d to blot his name from the Book if he will not forgive the people (Ex. 32:32). Moshe then beseeches G-d not to make the people go on without the fellowship with G-d (Ex. 33:12-16). This chapter addresses not only the ascension process of Israel, but the personal process of ascending to G-d through the life of Moshe. How easy it would be for Moshe to just agree with G-d that the people are a bunch of stiff necked (rebellious) idolaters and allow G-d to destroy them as he was planning to do? Yet, he offered himself as a sacrifice if G-d would not forgive the people. We see the same humility and repentant behavior in David as he placed his hands upon the ark, knowing G-d could kill him in a moment for his sin of murder and adultery. Yet, G-d chose David’s punishment by denying him the privilege of building the Temple and took his son Absalom. Kabbalah teaches that we must never underestimate the infinite results of our actions. G-d Himself addresses this in (Ex. 34:5-7)
Finally, we arrive at the subject of the festivals or G-d’s designated times. Their observance is a large part of our keeping separate from the world. If you doubt this, just observe what happens when you tell people who ask you what you are doing for Easter, Halloween, or Christmas, and you tell them you don’t celebrate these days. This is just another example that people who profess to love G-d, do not all love the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. My experience indicates that they either think you are conceited and think you are better than they are in some respect, or they think you are one of the Christ- killer Jews and do not believe that the laws of G-d were nailed to the cross. But G-d does not mince His words (Ex. 34:27) “Write these words down, because they are the terms of the covenant I have made with you and with Israel”. In Ex. 34:18-26 G-d commands observance of Pesach, Shabbat (again), redemption of the first born, Shavuot and Sukkot (verse 22). He demands the best firstfruits of our bounty to be brought into His house. He demands compassion (verse 26). It is enough for us to tell people that the reason we do not celebrate the aforementioned holidays is because G-d forbids it. If you are given the opportunity to expand your answer, you need to be armed with the truth of Torah and share it with compassion. Remember, you may never know what far reaching effects your words and actions may have on those with whom you have contact; and you may never see these individuals again.
Haftarah: 1 Kings 18:20-39
Eliyahu’s actions at Mount Karmel reflect those taken by Moshe in our parashah. Just as Moshe laid down the line and made the people choose between standing up for Adonai or worshipping the golden calf, so Eliyahu stood alone and challenged the people to decide between Adonai and Ba’al. Just as G-d required those who said they were for Him (Levites) to kill their friends, family and neighbors who chose to deny G-d as sign of their allegiance and consecration to His service, so the prophets of Ba’al were killed. We must make these choices daily in one situation or another. People will have to make this choice in the future, either taking or rejecting the mark of the beast described in Revelation. The price of following G-d may be martyrdom. But physical death is temporary. We need to rise above the belief that this life is reality and focus on our purpose to glorify G-d and make His Name known. We have a race to run, a prize for which we must strive to win, and a Father who wants us to spend eternity with Him and not the adversary. The race is hard, the gate is narrow, but the choice is ours; Torah or torment.
B’rit Chadashah: Acts 7:35-8:1
The context of this scripture places Stephen who was full of grace and power, in the midst of members of the Synagogue of the Freed Slaves (Acts 6:9) comprised of Greek-speaking Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and the province of Asia. The Greek syntax suggests that the two aforementioned groups accused Stephen of blasphemy against Moshe and G-d, the holy place and the Torah (6:11-13). This was a pure smear campaign. Our discussion picks up where Stephen strongly admonishes his accusers and defends Yahshua and his faith with such eloquence as he recounts the history of Israel and the constant rebellion throughout their sojourn through time. He rightly accuses them of idolatry and rebellion, of having the Torah but not following it; of rejecting Yahshua, His message and His talmidim, just as the Israelites in our parashah rebelled against and even rejected Moshe. Finally, these rebellious, self-righteous accusers stone Stephen. True to his faith he calls on the Name of Yahshua to receive his spirit and forgive his accusers. This final act resounds that of Yahshua himself as He hung on the execution stake. This is the longest recorded speech in the book of Acts and testifies to the power of the Ruach HaKodesh in the lives of those who love YHVH/Yahshua and the Torah. Strength and power are given to those who carry the Testimony of Yahshua and guard the Commands of HaShem (Acts 1:8), and G-d will never leave those who love Him (Heb.13:5).
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart
Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue