Torah 101 for Christians was my weekly Saturday post quite a few years ago when I wrote for our non-profit organization Haverim. (The name is Hebrew for friends.) I suppose it was a natural calling because after receiving my first Bible as a totally committed Christian, I considered Jesus’ Jewish family my family and the entire Bible my family tree! Current events convince me that all of us need to understand the very roots of our faith. Jesus read from the Torah and the Prophets every Saturday, it was His Sabbath Day. Shabbat Shalom!
Ki Tisa “When you take”
Perhaps there is no better place to start sharing Torah 101 than with this reading from Ki Tisa or the first words spoken by God to Moses translated into English, “When you take.” At first glance, we might think we are getting into boring reading, but when we understand the importance, everything changes.
The where, what, when about Exodus to date
God used Moses, a forty-year Jewish exile from Israel in the deserts of Midian, to bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 1-12). After Pharoah changes his mind and tries to capture the Children of Israel, resulting in his troops being drowned in the Red Sea, the newly freed Israelites begin to journey in the desert under Moses’ command via instructions from God. (Exodus 13-17) Moses has his hands full. They fight their first battle against the Amalekites and win. (Our first picture of the power of intercessors in the Bible at Exodus 17:8-16, and where we learn the name of God – Jehovah Nissi – the Lord our Banner or God is my miracle!) It is three months since leaving Egypt, and the Israelites enter the Sinai Desert. Chapter 18 is the portion where God comes to an agreement with the Israelites. Once this is set in place, Moses climbs the mountain with Joshua in attendance to receive not only the Ten Commandments but laws to govern the people, entire directions for the tabernacle, and every item necessary to implement the worship of God. (Exodus 18-30)
Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34)
In today’s Torah portion, we find Moses atop the mountain receiving further instructions from God:
11 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
12 “When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted
13 This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel. Twenty gerahs equal one shekel; half of [such] a shekel shall be an offering to the Lord.
14 Everyone who goes through the counting, from the age of twenty and upward, shall give an offering to the Lord.
15 The rich shall give no more, and the poor shall give no less than half a shekel, with which to give the offering to the Lord, to atone for your souls.
16 You shall take the silver of the atonements from the children of Israel and use it for the work of the Tent of Meeting; it shall be a remembrance for the children of Israel before the Lord, to atone for your souls.“
The weekly Torah portion is long, and Rabbis usually take their teaching from a certain part to make a particular point. I want to share a teaching I came across this week, but first, I shared the very first words from Ki Tisa because I was struck by the last five words of verse sixteen, “to atone for your souls.” I have read this portion many times. Yet today it was like a lightbulb coming on in my spirit. This is the God of all creation, the one true God giving Moses full instructions for the first building in which He will be present. He then arranges for the people to give a small amount of silver to atone for the Children of Israel’s souls. It could not have been so easy for all the Israelites. As I wrote at the beginning of this post, I long ago began thinking of these Books of the Bible as the Christian family tree. Today, I thought of the words many of us say when we pray the first part of the Divine Mercy Prayer: “Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” Just a thought.
Ki Tisa … Moses — The Second Greatest Jew Ever (Exodus 30:11-34:15)
This passage includes one of the saddest moments in all of Scripture – this Torah Portion conveys to the reader the story of the Golden Calf. The story of this great sin begins in chapter 32 with a complaint that Moses was delayed in coming down from the mountain. There is a lesson in reacting to what humans consider a delay but that will have to wait for another time.
For this week’s portion wants to concentrate on the uniqueness of Moses. Moses was given the opportunity for greatness beyond that we can even imagine but he rejected it for the good of a people who did not understand and definitely did not understand his sacrifice. For while the people were worshipping an idol, God informed Moses of their depravity and sin and His desire to destroy them for their wickedness. The Lord also offered to destroy the people and begin again with Moses as the father of His Chosen People. For many this would have been a tempting offer, but Moses rejected it not only once but twice. In 32:11-13, Moses not only rejects the offer but also reminds God that for Him to destroy the people would cause the world to “smirk” because God had destroyed His Chosen People. He also rejected any semblance of an offer in 32:30-32. In this section, Moses offers himself as a type of sacrifice for the sins of the people. He is willing to be blotted from before God’s eye if it will save the children of Israel.
This is not only the action of a leader but also a precursor to the ultimate act of sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Moses offered to be a type of sacrifice for the people. Jesus actually did sacrifice himself for people (the Jewish people and the rest of the world) who rejected Him. Moses begged God not to abandon His promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus became The Promise for the entire world. Moses was a great leader of the people. Jesus led the people by becoming the Suffering Servant for their redemption.
Many times people will attempt to compare Moses and Jesus. Moses is perhaps the second most important man of Jewish history. He transformed himself from a cowering shepherd to a leader among men. However, Jesus was and is the Great Shepherd for all the people who will follow Him.
Moses acknowledges the greatness of the Messiah at the Mount of Transfiguration when he stands alongside Elijah to pronounce that no one is above Messiah Jesus. Moses was a leader unsurpassed by any other man; however, even Moses pales in comparison to a Savior who redeems His people by dying for them.
Haftorah – Ezekiel Chapter 36
The Haftorah reading comes from a portion of the Prophets that relates to the reading from the Torah portion. Today we’ll end with these words from the end of Ezekiel 36:
27And I will put My spirit within you and bring it about that you will walk in My statutes and you will keep My ordinances and do [them].
28Then will you dwell in the land that I gave your fathers, and you will be a people to Me, and I will be to you as a God…
36And the nations that are left round about you shall know that I, the Lord, have built up the ruined places and have planted the desolate ones; I, the Lord, have spoken, and I will perform [it].
Lord God, thank you for keeping the words of the Torah and Prophets throughout all the generations. Thank you for allowing us to know your Son and, through Him, salvation history. Father, we turn our eyes to today’s Israel where we see You have built up the ruined places and continue returning the Jewish people from all the corners of the earth. We wait, O Lord, for Messiah Jesus’ return and the turning of all the hearts in that ancient land to You. Amen.
God bless you always,
© 2021 Nancy Montgomery – ORCatholic.com
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