Shmot (Exodus)The Hebrew title 'Shmot' meaning names, comes from the first verse: 'These are the names of the sons of Israel.' The English name Exodus derived from the Greek meaning departure (like the word Exit) refers to the main event described in the book: the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. In the book of Exodus, we move from stories of individuals and families to the story of the Israelite nation. In Exodus, the Hebrews become a nation. The book of Exodus tells of the Israelites' enslavement, and subsequent deliverance with the 10 plagues. Moses leads the people out of Egypt, crossing the Red Sea. They arrrive at Sinai, where they receive the 10 Commandments, and other rules. While Moses is on the mountain, the people build a Golden Calf. The remainder of the book describes the architectural details and the construction of a portable sanctuary, the Mishkan. The themes of slavery and subsequent redemption form the foundation for performance for numerous biblical laws. There are fifty chapters, divided into eleven parashiyot. The parashiyot of Shmot are: Shmot, Va'Era, Bo, Beshalach, Yitro, Mishpatim, Terumah, Tetzaveh, Ki Tisa, VaYakhel, and Pekudei.

Ki Tisa

Ki Tisa: Let us channel our inclination and/or 'talents' for misdeeds for a higher purpose.

Parashat Ki Tisa continues with discussion about the building of the Mishkan, (the Tabernacle). The portion begins with instructions for taking a census of the people. Each Israelite adult over the age of twenty must contribute half a shekel, to be used in support of the worship in the Mishkan. Next, there is description of the additional holy implements that need to be created: a copper washstand, the anointing oil and the incense. God then identifies Bezalel, a man endowed with 'divine spirit of skill,' as the chief artisan and architect of the Mishkan. But, before construction actually begins, God reminds Moses to tell the people about the importance of maintaining Shabbat. At the conclusion of this passage, God gives Moses the original set of the two Tablets, which are inscribed directly by God, and Moses returns to the people. The Torah's focus then switches down the mountain to the people, and jumps back a bit in time. The people, upset at Moses's delay up on the mountain, approach Aaron to make them an idol, and Aaron complies by creating a molten calf for the people to worship. Both God and Moses become angry with the people, and, upon his return, Moses smashes the Tablets and, together with the Levites, resumes control of the people, and 3,000 are put to death. God threatens to wipe out the people, but, despite his anger and words of rebuke, Moses prays on the people's behalf, and God relents. Moses then returns up the mountain and beseeches God to reaffirm the Covenant. Moses carves a new second set of Tablets, and before he returns, he is treated to a viewing of the Divine Presence. God does reaffirm the Covenant along with all its ritual and ethical implications.

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These summaries and introductions are used with permission of Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, Canada. Kolel is a dynamic, pluralistic, egalitarian institution where men and women engage in Jewish learning which values both traditional and liberal interpretations. Kolel is a gateway into a richer expression of Judaism for each individual, wherever their journey of Jewish discovery may take them.

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