The official name of this week's Torah portion is “Parashat Ki Tissa", though digital content editors (like myself) and SEO optimizers might prefer to call it "The Parasha of the Golden Calf".
The Star of the Week
There are a lot of things that happen in this week’s Torah portion, and all of them are quite significant. The portion begins with meticulous instructions regarding the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the half-shekel tax to finance the construction of the Mishkan, continuing with the story of the golden calf and its consequences – including the breaking of the first set of tablets, and ends with Moses’s return with a new set of tablets – and what a triumphant return it is!
After Moses begs and successfully convinces God to renew the covenant with the people, Moses brings back two new tablets and descends the mountain with his face radiant, literally glowing with rays of light. And here again, the Tablets of the Covenant appear to be the undisputed star.
But this glowing event only comes at the end. In my opinion, the heart of the Parasha is actually the golden calf – the calf is the star this time. There are a few things going on here in the story of the calf: the long wait combined with an inability to be satisfied with what is currently present and to wait patiently, and the desire to see with one’s own eyes some tangible proof.
About the Here and Now
The people are worried. But why? It’s hard for them to wait patiently, to see the bigger picture. They want everything fast, here and now. It seems that we too are such a generation, who want everything to happen right away. If someone doesn’t answer us within two minutes, what do we do? We call again, send a message, and then rush to draw conclusions and maybe even block a person. That's how it is in the instant world of 2022. If a guy doesn’t answer, he probably isn’t interested. But wait, maybe he's interested but he's just busy? We used to wait. Written letters took time to arrive. There was a time – not too long ago here in Israel – when not every home had a phone, and when they did and when you called, you had to wait at least 4-5 rings. Today? If no one answers after two rings, we hang up and move right on to the next thing.
In our Parasha, Moses has already received the first set of tablets and is getting ready to descend the mountain when the ruckus breaks out below. The people – they have no patience. They have already begun to despair. They don’t even wait for two rings, and they start moving on to the next thing. If it were a Hollywood movie, we would see some cross-editing at this moment: down below the people are growing impatient, but meanwhile, on the mountain top, Moses is preparing to come on down: “Upon finishing speaking with him on Mount Sinai, [God] gave Moses the two tablets of the Pact, stone tablets inscribed with the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18).
Waiting Ain’t Easy
When the children of Israel lose patience with the here and now, hoping for something grand to happen – or starting to think that maybe it won’t – they want proof. They do not wait, and go to Aaron, as it says in the very next verse following the one quote above:
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make us a god who shall go before us, for that fellow Moses—the man who brought us from the land of Egypt—we do not know what has happened to him’” (Exodus 32:1).
My mother is always late, everywhere. We are a big family. My mother has five children, fifteen grandchildren, and the next generation is probably soon to come. When she’s running late, sometimes we worry about her a bit, but usually we just trust her, and know that she will show up eventually. Once upon a time, there was no Waze or Google Maps, and none of those text messages in the style of "I'm here, waiting, where are you??". You would schedule with someone and trust that they would come. But here in our Torah Portion, we see that the people do not trust. And we all know what’s going to happen in the end – everything will fall on Moses’s shoulders; he’ll run damage control, restore trust, and ask for forgiveness. These are things that one must also know how to do.
So what's the message? Think for a second about yourselves. How many times have you waited for something and felt that every second is an hour, every day becomes a year and every year is an eternity? How many times have you waited and in the end what you really wanted really happened? And you said to yourself "aha – now I know it was worth the wait".
A little patience, and it’ll all work out in the end.
I wish all of us that we know how to breathe and think, even in the face of the wind, and that we know how to wait, even if it is not very simple. Believe me, it pays off.
And it's not yet easy to breath,
And it’s not yet easy to think in the face of the wind
And it ain't easy at all to wait
("The next day", Leah Goldberg)
For the past year I’ve been here behind the scenes: I’ve edited and uploaded BINA’s weekly Torah commentaries by our amazing writers. This is my last Torah commentary as part of my role at BINA, and I chose to write it myself. I’ve had a lot of fun being here, I learned a lot, and as I leave I move on with optimism in my heart, though I know I’ll miss it too.
And on a personal note: I chose to write about what it feels like to wait for something that has not yet happened, and requires a lot of patience and the ability to cope with frustration. This piece is dedicated to the beloved of my heart whom I never ceased to seek, whom I waited for even when it was not easy to wait. And to all those who are still looking for love. Yours, Laliv.
Laliv Gal is BINA’s outgoing Content and Social Media Manager.