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    How crazy can you be? – Ki Tissa

    February 28th, 2021

    The story in the sidra is sad and shocking.

    Moses and the Israelites have left Egypt at God’s word. They have made a stop at Sinai where Moses has ascended the mountain and HaShem has proclaimed the Ten Commandments.

    But Moses has not come back and the people have lost patience. They go to the second-in-command, Aaron, and ask him to make a god for them.

    The result is the Golden Calf, which the people acclaim with the words, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” (Ex. 32:4).

    How crazy can you be? An idol of gold, just completed, is credited with bringing Israel out of Egypt? History can be re-written so radically, so stupidly, so dangerously?

    You wouldn’t think it could happen, but it did, and it repeats itself – not least in our own time.

    One of the strangest things is why they ask Aaron to make them a new god. Why not expect Aaron to take over as leader whilst keeping the real God? If Aaron is good enough to fashion a god, surely he is good enough to be the leader!

    But they don’t need a human being; they need a symbol. They need a flag on a pole. The real God isn’t good enough because He makes inconvenient laws and expects them not to kill, steal, commit adultery.

    A flag on a pole – any flag, any pole – is acceptable. A tragedy!


    Seven times Shabbat – Ki Tissa

    February 28th, 2021

    The Torah reading this week refers to Shabbat seven times, which leads Rabbi Yitzchak to say in the Mechilta that the days of the week should all be counted as part of the seven-day week.

    Sunday is the first day to next Shabbat, Monday is the second, Tuesday is the third… and so on.

    Every day one should add a piece of the plan for the coming Shabbat.

    On Sunday we could start the week by working out what we will spend for Shabbat. On Monday we could nominate one of the things we will dedicate to Shabbat. On Tuesday we could plan whom to invite for Shabbat meals. On Wednesday we could decide what we will talk about on Shabbat.

    Every day is thus a part of Shabbat in some way – seven days, seven ways, seven thoughts, seven blessings.


    Counting & forgiveness – Ki Tissa

    February 28th, 2021

    The name Ki Tissa is usually translated as “When you shall count”. The context is counting the number of members of the people of Israel.

    The verb nasa can also mean “to forgive”. In that sense it tells us how important it is to be forgiven for the sins that tend to stain our record all the time.

    It’s important not only to be forgiven by HaShem, but to forgive ourselves. Sin becomes an obsession if we cannot move beyond it and say with Maimonides (Hilchot Teshuvah), “I am sorry for what I did. I shall be careful and not commit this sin again!”


    Focus on prayers – Ask the Rabbi

    February 28th, 2021

    Q. What shall I do if I am distracted by something during davening?

    A. Judaism is an extended dialogue. God talks to man, man talks to God.

    It is exemplified at times of prayer. Our davening is like Jacob’s angels which went up to God and came back with His response (Gen. 28:12).

    In theory this is what the siddur facilitates, but some people find their attention wandering.

    The Rambam says, “Clear out all other thoughts and know that you are standing before the Divine Presence” (Hil’chot T’fillah 4:16). All very well, but it is hard to banish distractions.

    In a parable the Chafetz Chayyim said that a poor woman had a fruit stall in the market that made a bare living. Hooligans knocked over the stall and the apples went flying. A passer-by re-erected her stall and picked up some of the fruit, adding this advice: “When someone grabs your apples, snatch as many as you can and put them in another bag.”

    The Chafetz Chayyim applied this to prayer. He said, “When distractions attack you, don’t give in. Overcome them with thoughts that outweigh the distractions.”


    What a year since last Purim

    February 21st, 2021

    By Boris Shapiro

    We had a lively Purim table last year. Nobody had any inkling of what was to come. 

    The virus knew precisely when to attack, in the midst of lively spirits and party hats.

    We would like to phone around and invite everybody again but we still aren’t sure. We could have a table of lively guests, but would it be a good idea? Nobody knows. 

    We might have to trade Purim for Pesach. If we want a family Seder on Pesach we might have to limit our Purim.

    Whatever we end up doing we will wish each other (presumably virtually) all the blessings that God can give us. May they be blessings of health.

    Neither this year nor ever should there be too much inebriation or extremes. Never should anyone go in for binge drinking, which is neither required by halachah nor good for anyone’s health.

    #coronavirus #corona #covid-19 #covid19