Parashat Ki Tisa: Various Teachings From Netivyah Staff
In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Joseph Shulam: God’s Statement of Our Equality 
This week’s reading of the Torah is from Exodus 31:11 – 34:35. The reading has many important issues that are relevant to what we need today. One thing that is really interesting to me is the need of absolute equality.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs) half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives.’” – Exodus 30:11-15
Note from this text that everyone in Israel is to pay only half a shekel. The rich pay half a shekel and the poor pay half a shekel. This money, the half a shekel, is called “ransom,” and “atonement for your lives.”
Everyone in Israel from every tribe is to pay the same half a shekel. I learn from this that, in the ultimate divine view point of all of us, we are equal and our “ransom” and “atonement” is the same. Not that the half a shekel is the atoning power, but the half a shekel is actually a symbol of the one who takes the place for each person in Israel.
This is how the census is supposed to be carried. When King David was tempted and commanded to carry a census of Israel toward the last of his days, David didn’t pay attention to the Torah laws, and commanded Joab his general to go and count the people of Israel. A horrible plague came upon Israel, and 70,000 people died because of the census that David carried without the use of the half a shekel – just plain counting of the people of Israel.
One of the main lessons that I have learned from this text in Exodus 30 is that for God we are all equal – we are all half a shekel’s worth. The price of our “ransom” and our “atonement” is all the same for each one of us, the rich and the poor, the educated and the non-educated. The price of everyone is the same.
This is also true with what God did with Yeshua His son. The same blood, the same suffering, the same death, and the same resurrection, and when He returns, the Messiah will be equally the Messiah and the savior of all, Jews and non-Jews alike. All will enjoy their eternal life for the same price: the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah – Yeshua.
The second thing that I would like to mention from this Torah reading is from Exodus 31:12-17,
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, “Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death. Therefore, the people of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, observing the Sabbath throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and son the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.”’” – Exodus 31:12-17
In this reading of the commandments connected to the seventh day, the Sabbath is placed in a very special place. The Sabbath, in this case, becomes a sign between the Lord and the people of Israel. This is no longer a commandment that is given for the human body to rest from labor from working for a living, but to rest, and as Isaiah the prophet said:
“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the Lord honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 58:13-14
Now, in our text the Sabbath takes the role of a wedding ring. It is a sign that God and Israel have a relationship.
The Sabbath is first a covenantal sign between Israel and the Lord, and second comes the “solemn rest” and “holy to the Lord.” Only in the third place comes the issue of working on the Sabbath, and the fourth important thing here is the confirmation and declaration that the Lord created the world in six days, and rested on the seventh.
These four aspects of the Sabbath are a package deal, but today the emphasis in Israel is the covenantal sign and confirmation of the relationship between the Lord and Israel, and the rest on the Sabbath day is only the inheritance of the ultra-orthodox Jews.
The Jewish genius finds ways to adjust and circumvent the strict Torah ways, and liberalize and enable people to live as much as possible in the modern world. Everyone uses electricity – although the ultra-orthodox Jews don’t turn on the light or use phones and computers – most of the Jews in the world understand that the Sabbath is a type, a symbol, a sign, a confirmation of the relationship between God the Creator and the nation He has chosen to preserve and bring salvation to the whole world.
The salvation for the world is through a faithful son of Israel who is also the faithful Son of God, Yeshua. When Yeshua declares that “the Son of Man” is the Lord of the Sabbath, He declares that He is the master of the Sabbath – the One who ratifies the covenantal aspect of the Sabbath, the One who gives the rest to those who are in covenantal relationship with Him, through their participation in His death, burial and resurrection.
The three bases of the Sabbath were all included in this text from this Torah reading:
- The Sabbath is a symbol of a covenantal relationship between the Creator and the nation of Israel.
- It is a day of non-work – rest. According to Isaiah, it is a day of concentration on God’s desire, and not like the six days of work, of concentration on our private desires and personal interests.
- A monument and remembrance to the Creation of the world and for the Creator of the world.
These make the very basis of the Sabbath day. The question that today we need to ask is the following: Do Christians today need these three elements that the Sabbath provides?
- Do Christians today need to know, and to have a symbol of the fact, that they are related and connected, and assured that they have a covenantal relationship with the Lord and Creator of the World?
- Do Christians need rest from the burdens of work and the provision for the sustenance of life – physical work? Men are not beasts of burden, and God provided the seventh day of creation for rest. God Himself was an example. God rested on the seventh day after the six days of creation. For this reason, He sanctified the seventh day and made it holy. This was a long long time before Abraham and before there were Hebrews, or Jews, or Israel.
- God wanted the Sabbath day, the seventh day, to be a monument for humanity, to remember that this earth that we live in is the planned and engineered work of the Master Creator of all life. Not an accident of an atomic explosion in the vast space. This world was created by God and by an intelligence, not by accident.
Joseph Shulam: God’s Mercy Shown at the Darkest of Times 
The reading this Shabbat is from Exodus 31:11-34:35 – Parashat Ki Tisa. This is one of the saddest, and at the same time happiest, texts of the Torah.
It is saddest, because at one of the most dramatic and great moments of the history of Israel in relationship to God, the highest spiritual authority of Israel, Aaron the brother of Moses, and the rest of the Priesthood of Israel, created the Golden Calf. This terrible deed did not happen in some remote dark basement. The Golden Calf was created at the foot of Mount Sinai, by the very brother of Moses, and the High Priest of the Lord, in concert with his family and the tribe of Levi, standing with the elders of the nation beside him and cooperating.
The Golden Calf was not some strange idol that was invented by Aaron. The Golden Calf was a representation of Hathor – an ancient Egyptian goddess who personified the principles of joy, feminine love, and motherhood.
Hathor was the chief goddess of Egypt for many centuries. She had a female body and a head of a beautiful women with ears of a calf. The Golden Calf was her representation. So, in a way, Aaron was taking the people of Israel back to Egypt spiritually.
It was back to their well-known spiritual turf and comfort zone. Moses was up there at the top of Mt. Sinai talking to God and receiving the Torah, not eating and not drinking, and they were down eating and drinking carousing and worshiping an idol.
This whole event takes place just a very short time after crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, after leaving Egypt with the wealth of the Egyptians, after experiencing the power of God in the Ten Plagues’ effect on the land and the people of Egypt.
The mercy of God is shown in this text of Exodus as much as any other text or event in the Bible. For those Christians who think that the God of Israel and the Torah has only judgment, and not mercy and grace like in the New Testament – I beg them to read the Torah again.
In this parasha, God decides to abandon Israel and allow Moses to carry on with these people on his own. Moses convinced God to stay and keep leading and caring and blessing the people of Israel with His presence. Even more than that, Moses wants to see God’s glory, and God, at least partially, reveals to Moses the very essence of His character:
“Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…’” – Exodus 34:5-7
Don’t let any Christian demagogue ever tell you that the Old Testament or the Torah is a book of judgment, and the New Testament is a book of love and grace. There is no greater demonstration of God’s love than Yeshua the Messiah. Yeshua is the purpose of the Torah (the end, the goal) and His sacrifice on the cross is based on the promises of God to the people of Israel in the Torah and in the prophets.
Joseph Shulam: The Golden Calf and the Mindset of Churches Today 
The Torah Portion (Parashah) this week is Ki Tisa from Exodus 30:11 – 34:35, it tells the story of the rebellion of the children of Israel at the very foot of Mount Sinai.
Moses was up on the top of Mount Sinai talking to God and receiving the Torah. The children of Israel were down at the foot of the mountain – prepared to receive the Torah – cleansed and impatient. And they ask Aaron to give them a god that will walk before them and lead them to the promised land and out of the desert.
Aaron buckles under the public opinion of the majority and makes some impossible demands. He asks the men to ask the women to take off their jewelry from their ears and neck and give their jewelry to make the Golden Calf.
The Golden Calf is the mascot of the Egyptian goddess “Hathor”. Hathor was the most famous goddesses of Ancient Egypt. She was called “the Great One of Many Names” because she was the goddess of life and death, and prosperity. She was depicted as a female figure with a head of a cow, and sometimes only the ears of a cow. Her symbol in the temples was a golden cow, a calf.
How did Aaron the brother of Moses (not yet the high priest) respond to the demand of the people and why? Aaron also did not know what happened to Moses his younger brother, and why Moses did not come down the mountain for so long. He did not know if Moses had enough food, or water, up there in the barren desert heat.
I am sure that Aaron was insecure and the people were demanding, and he at that moment probably figured that if Moses is gone he, himself, will take the leadership of this mob of impatient ex-slaves. He must provide for them a god that will lead them through the wilderness.
Aaron, like any good politician, knows that rule number one for a political leader is to please the people and give them what they want. After that, the politician can do with the people whatever he wants.
So, Aaron falls on what the people are familiar with. They are familiar with the gods of Egypt that they have been worshipping for a couple of hundred years in Egypt.
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!” – Joshua 24:14
From these words of Joshua, in the very last part of his life and leadership of Israel during the conquest of the Land of Canaan, we still hear that the Israelites, even after entering the Land of Promise, continued to worship the gods of the Egyptians that they were familiar with before the Exodus. Bad habits die hard!
It is interesting that this Shabbat is called “Shabbat Para” – “Shabbat of the Cow.” The reason for this is because the extra reading of this Shabbat is from Numbers 19:1-22. This is the story of what is commonly called “The Red Heifer.”
The Red Heifer is one of these very mysterious ceremonies in the Torah. There must be a cow (heifer) that is red in color – all red. This cow is taken outside the camp to a special place prepared for it. The cow is offered as a sacrifice fully burned.
The ashes of this red cow are used for purification of things like leprosy, impurity from touching the dead, and for the ordeal of a husband that suspects his wife of infidelity. All the ceremonies are very different (weird) but very necessary for a community like Israel in the days of the Tabernacle, and after that, during the time of the Temple in Jerusalem.
It is very interesting that the writer of the book of Hebrews likens the Red Heifer to Yeshua and Yeshua to the Red Heifer. See:
“We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come. Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” – Hebrews 13:10-16
This text is talking about the Red Heifer, because this is the only sacrifice that is offered outside the camp and not in the Tabernacle or the Temple in Jerusalem. (Dr. Wendel Jones, who is the real character behind the “Indiana Jones” stories and was a Baptist Missionary in Jerusalem in the early 1970’s, actually found the place of the Red Heifer near Qumran on the shore of the Dead Sea. He was an amateur archaeologist, and the real archaeologists really did not like him because he was a bit wild like in the stories of Indiana Jones.)
As you can see, the writer of the book of Hebrews, who probably was an ex-member of the Qumran community, connects the Red Heifer and Yeshua, and invites the disciples of Yeshua to be willing to come outside the camp, because only outside the camp there is purification and salvation.
I suppose that this message is very important for the church today and the synagogue in the same way. The establishment, and especially the religious establishments today, are all trying their best to be politcally correct, and please the people to build bigger and richer churches, and line their pockets with the ashes of the gold of the Golden Calf.
The Hebrews writer is inviting you and me:
“Therefore, let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.”
I suppose that we all ought to pray for our churches and synagogues to be willing to step out of the politically-correct world that waters down every biblical truth to please the crowds.
Yehuda Bachana: We are Called to Plead With God 
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
This week’s Torah portion, like the previous ones, deals with the construction of the Tabernacle as well as the appointment of Bezalel, the chief craftsman, who crafted the holy vessels. We begin this parasha with instructions for the census of the population, which was actually a call for order on a national scale.
This portion talks about the oil of anointing. God dictated to us the formula for this special oil – which is essentially olive oil mixed with perfumes. With the help of this oil, they anoint the holy vessels, the altar, and Aaron and the priests. Like the oil we were also given the formula for the incense used in the Holy of Holies. Despite all of the intricate instructions we receive in this portion, the most central story, and the most difficult and painful one, is the Israelites’ creation of the Golden Calf.
The Sin of the Golden Calf – What Really Happened?
I think that the Golden Calf has become an international symbol of sin and rebellion towards God, almost at the same level as the partaking in the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
What actually occurred during the time of this unfortunate event? Moses went up to Mount Sinai for 40 days; think about it for a moment, that’s a whole month and a half. There was no voice nor response from him during this period. The people of Israel were asking – what’s going on, what happened to Moses?
It’s easy for us to judge the Israelites – what were they thinking? I do not justify the sin here, but 40 days went by, the leader went to meet God and, as it is written: “Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain.” Moses was gone, he hasn’t returned, what do we do now? Do we move on? Do we wait longer? How much longer should we wait? One more week? Another month? A whole year? These questions must’ve consumed the minds of the Israelites.
The children of Israel sinned by building the Golden Calf. This act interrupts the encounter between Moses and God, so God sent Moses down from the mountain. As I said, I am not trying to justify the sin of the people, but I’d like to ask you to understand that this is not as simple as it sounds. In the wake of this sin, God sought to destroy the people – to destroy Israel and to start anew through Moses.
We are Called to Plead With God
In Genesis, Abraham stood before God and made a rational plea before the Almighty:
“Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” – Genesis 18:23 [NIV]
Abraham succeeded in having a dialogue with God, which ended with a search for ten righteous people in Sodom, which were not found.
Moses stood before God, similar to Abraham, and pleaded with Him, bringing up arguments that were seemingly reasonable. Moses claimed that God had brought Israel out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with honor, in order so that the whole world would see that there is only one God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But if God were to destroy Israel in the desert, what would the nations think? That He took the Israelites out of slavery only to destroy them in the desert? Moses continued to plead with God to forgive the people, if not for the sake of the people, then for the sake of our fathers, the promises given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
“Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.” – Exodus 32:14 [NIV]
Yeshua Tells Us to Never Give Up
This is an amazing passage from the Torah, which calls us humans to dialogue with God. The Torah teaches us that we have the power to change the world and that we possess the means in which to talk with God. Even more so, from now on we have the responsibility to talk with God. Our job is to lift up those around us, our community, friends, and of course, our children. We have the privilege to speak with God and the power to effect change.
There are other examples in Scripture about fasting, prayer, and pleading that led to reconciliation with God.
For instance, we read about the people of Nineveh proclaiming a fast for every man and beast, as a way of showing complete repentance. In the end, the city of Nineveh was saved and not destroyed, according to God’s original plan (Jonah 3:5).
This can also be seen with the instruction of Yeshua. In the parable of the widow and the judge (Luke 18), Yeshua teaches us, that due to the widow’s incessant pleas, the judge gave her justice, even though the judge himself was not interested in doing so. Actually, he didn’t even want to help her and administer justice; he was just sick of the old widow’s constant nagging. Using this parable, Yeshua teaches us that we must persist in prayer, and in the end, we will receive our answer. To persist in prayer means to continue praying, pleading, and not letting go until the long-awaited reply is evident.
The parable begins with the following:
“Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” – Luke 18:1 [NIV]
When we gather together and pray in one heart for a good cause, be it 30 people or three people, in the name of Yeshua the Messiah, we obtain the capability to bring about change.
The Call to Watch on the Walls of Jerusalem
We have the power to influence our environment, family, the way our friends see Israel and even more importantly, the way they view our faith. Especially in the age of social media, our impact, message, and thoughts are able to reach hundreds of people.
God uses people to carry out His will, we are tools in the hands of God. We can be used for honor and serve to build the kingdom of heaven, or we can serve as tools of destruction and be like a curse. This idea is true for every aspect of our lives and the lives of those around us.
God is sovereign and His will shall be done, for better or for worse. However, throughout history, including biblical history, God used people to carry out His divine plan.
With this thought, I want to turn to Isaiah chapter 62. The entire chapter is of much importance:
“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” – Isaiah 62:1 [NIV]
Simply put, this means that I will not stop praying for Jerusalem’s sake, I will not stop talking about it. I will not stop sharing on Facebook, regardless of it being politically correct or not, even when it is not necessarily pleasant for me. I will raise up Jerusalem and will not rest until it’s light and it’s salvation is seen by all. That’s my job as a believer and my God-given responsibility.
“I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.” – Isaiah 62: 6,7 [NIV]
Verses 6 and 7 discuss those who are faithful to God and pray to Him, those who are watching on the walls of Jerusalem. These individuals must not remain silent, neither day nor night – do not be silent, pray always. You are the watchmen, if not you, then who will do so? You have the power and responsibility to do two crucial tasks: first, you have the ability to pray to God and to not give Him rest, to always remind Him of His promises and the prophecies about the restoration of Jerusalem. Second, you have the means to break the cycle of lies that are being spread about Israel and to spread the righteousness of our path in the world as well as the vindication of our faith, and we must do so, actively.
Verse 7 actually asks us not to let God rest — to nag in a way and to always be in prayer until He answers. This verse reminds us of the parable of Yeshua about the need to persevere in prayer, to endure in being watchmen.
God cares about our opinion; our prayers are important. Yeshua taught us that when we meet as a group, even when just two or three are gathered in His name, He will be among us (Matthew 18:20).
God says He placed watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, who exactly are these watchmen? They are you and I. We are on duty and we must be on guard on several fronts: first, to intercede in prayer and remind God of his promises.
Second, to guard against the attacks of the world on Israel and Jerusalem and to spread the truth in a sea of lies. We must be a ray of light, similar to a lighthouse, that strives to spread the love of Yeshua the Messiah.