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Haddy the Hebrew: Parshat Ki Tisa

This week’s parshah is “Ki Tisa” which means “when you take.” It begins in Exodus 30:11 and ends in Exodus 34:35.  

This is the parshah in which we get the story of the golden calf. When Moses left the Israelites to ascend Mount Sinai and receive the Ten Commandments, he had told them that he would be gone for 40 days. The Israelite men miscounted the number of days since Moses had left and became restless. They demanded that Aaron, Moses’ brother and second-in-command, make an idol for them. 

Aaron attempted to buy himself and Moses some time, so he told the desperate men to ask their wives for their golden earrings. Aaron knew that the Israelite women would be less inclined to make an idol, as they were more faithful to G-D. But the men saw right through this and instead gave Aaron their own gold jewelry. Aaron then made the now-infamous golden calf and the Israelites began worshiping it. 

At this time, Moses is still on Mount Sinai, and G-D tells him what the Israelites are doing. G-D is outraged– how could these people He just performed many miracles for and rescued from slavery in Egypt forget Him so quickly? He suggests destroying the nation and instead starting a new one with just Moses, but Moses begs Him to change his mind. G-D agrees, but says that this sin will be remembered for many generations. 

When Moses descends from Mount Sinai and sees what is happening with his own eyes. He breaks the tablets on which the Ten Commandments are written and destroys the golden calf. Moses then ascends the mountain again in order to receive a new set of tablets with the Ten Commandments inscribed onto them. 

In my weekly parshah study class, the question “How could the Israelites do such a thing?” was posed. Of course, this is one that scholars have struggled with for centuries, and there isn’t one clear reason. Perhaps it was a mix of reasons, perhaps it was something that we will never be able to fully understand. 

I reasoned that this was an act of self-sabotage. The Israelites, I explained, were feeling the pressure of being the “chosen people.” They had received the Ten Commandments and about a third or so of the mitzvot, and they began to doubt themselves. As individuals, they likely felt that they weren’t worthy of being part of something so important. So, they tried to rebel against it. They tried to prove how unworthy they were, attempting to make G-D reconsider his decision. 

It very nearly worked. G-D did want to destroy the Israelites, but it was because of Moses that He forgave them. 

This lesson is very touching to me. It can be very difficult to believe in myself, and I often feel like an impostor when I get praised for my work or am chosen for a position. This can quickly lead to expressing those ideas through self-sabotage. But this story shows that you don’t always need to believe in yourself as long as you have someone in your corner. It is important to recognize the good and the talent in others so that you can uplift them in their times of need. You would want someone to do the same for you. 

The Israelites did not believe in themselves, but they didn’t have to. It is because Moses believed in them and saw their strength and potential that they escaped destruction. The Jewish people of today are the descendents of these same scared and insecure people, but we now know the power of belief in each other, not just ourselves.

Hadass Galili is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Hadass by tweeting her at @HadassGalili.

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