The Torah portion of Ki Tisa is well known because it contains the narrative of one of the most tragic moments in our history—the sin of the Golden Calf.

To briefly recap:

Fifty days after leaving Egypt, with the people camped at the foot of Mount Sinai, Moses ascended the mountain for 40 days. When he didn’t return on what the people mistakenly calculated as the 40th day, they assumed that he had died. To reinforce their error, Satan conjured a vision of a funeral in the sky, making it appear to the people as though Moses was being carried away in a coffin.

Wishing for a replacement for Moses, the people said, “Come on! (Let us) make gods that will go before us”—to lead us, to intervene for us, to be there for us—“because this man Moses, who brought us up from the Land of Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him.”1

The people approached Aaron, Moses’ brother who would later be designated as the High Priest, and demanded, “Make for us a god!” Aaron, meaning well and intending to buy time, told them to go home and collect gold from their family members. He hoped that the women and children, who valued their jewelry and precious objects, would not consent—at least not immediately—and this would delay matters until Moses returned. But instead of asking their wives and children for their jewelry, the men immediately removed their own jewelry and gave it to Aaron. (Thus, the women played no part in the affair.)

Aaron took the gold, threw it into the fire, and voila, the Golden Calf was born, a terrible transgression that remained a stain on our people forever. G‑d wanted to destroy the people and build a new nation through Moses, yet Moses pleaded with G‑d to forgive their sin. G‑d ultimately acquiesced and moved on from His plan to destroy His nation.

Golden Paradox

When the people came to Aaron and demanded, “Make for us a god!” what material did they use? They used perhaps the most precious material of all—gold. Why did they use gold? And did the fact that they made the calf out of gold place a negative stigma on gold? Is gold now considered something unholy?

An intriguing teaching sheds light on this. The Midrash notes, “The world was not worthy to have the use of gold, and it was created solely for the sake of the Beit Hamikdash.”2 It follows that gold is inherently holy, created with the primary intent of enabling the Jewish people to construct physical structures that would house G‑dliness—namely the Tabernacle and then the Holy Temple.

But then, it was specifically used in the most terrible transgression in Jewish history!

So, is gold holy or unholy?

Embrace Technology or Shun It?

To answer this question, let’s segue into one of the most important debates of our times: Does technology improve our lives? Should it be embraced or rejected? Is it holy or unholy?

On the one hand, modern technology allows Torah classes to be broadcast on the Internet, reaching people all over the world. Two thousand years ago—and even just a few decades ago—this would have been deemed miraculous.

The Rebbe himself appeared to embrace technology, encouraging the teachings of Tanya to be broadcast over radio waves when many considered radio “impure.” The Rebbe allowed his farbrengens (Chassidic gatherings) to be broadcast over cable television, which was as incredible as it was groundbreaking and historic—a rabbi speaking on cable television, reaching the entire world!

Initially, the Rebbe’s talks were heard worldwide through telephone hook-ups. As technology advanced, video broadcasts became available, allowing the community here in Los Angeles—and so many others throughout the world—to watch the Rebbe’s talks live. Later, during Chanukah events and Lag BaOmer parades, satellite feeds connected New York, Paris, Jerusalem, Hong Kong, and many other places worldwide, uniting the world through technology.

On the other hand, technology comes with risks. Giving young children unrestricted access to smartphones, tablets, and the Internet can be very dangerous; the content they view could be highly inappropriate. There are predators lurking out there. The Internet is a perilous place.

Is technology holy or unholy? The response to this question is, “Yes!”

Back to the question of gold. If you make a Holy Temple out of it, if you use it to construct a Tabernacle, there’s nothing holier. “Gold was only created for the Holy Temple.” If, G‑d forbid, you use it to create a Golden Calf, an idol, then there’s nothing more unholy. Technology is just like gold: when used in the service of G‑d, there’s nothing holier.

My Daily Torah Study classes and weekly sermons are accessed via, the world’s largest Jewish educational website. How did it attain this status? Because it had a very early start. With the Rebbe’s encouragement,’s founder, the pioneering Rabbi Yosef Kazen, of blessed memory, began disseminating Torah in cyberspace when most people were still trying to figure out what the Internet was.

As we’ve seen, there’s no tool more effective than the Internet for spreading Torah worldwide. Through it, Torah can reach millions across the world, something that was impossible without a miracle up to now. Technology is wonderful; there’s nothing holier. But, like gold, there’s also nothing more unholy. If used inappropriately, the worst the world has to offer is now at our fingertips.

Is technology holy or unholy? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Purim Connection

Most years, the portion of Ki Tisa is read during the week of Purim. Even during a Jewish, or lunar, leap-year—such as this year—this parshah is read in proximity to Purim Katan, the “Minor Purim.” Ki Tisa and Purim thus have a special connection, unveiling an important life lesson for us all.

Purim stands out as one of the most extraordinary miracles in Jewish history. To review: The Purim story unfolded during the period of exile between the destruction of the First Holy Temple and the subsequent return and building of the Second Temple. The Jewish people in that era enjoyed unprecedented acceptance amongst the nations of the world. King Ahasuerus, leader of the civilized world at the time, treated the Jewish people with equality throughout his domain.

When Ahasuerus made his famous royal banquet, glatt kosher food was served. The finest kosher wines were available.3

But their participation in that royal feast was a desecration of G‑d’s name because, at the meal, Ahasuerus paraded the utensils of the Holy Temple, and instead of protesting, they joined the party. And that ultimately brought about a complete reversal of fortune for the Jews.4

In an era of total acceptance of the Jewish people, suddenly a decree was brought about by the wicked Haman to annihilate every Jewish man, woman, and child from the face of the earth. Yet a great miracle occurred. Mordechai and Esther awakened a spirit of repentance among the Jewish people. For nearly an entire year, they stood in that spirit and repented completely. G‑d wrought a miracle, leading to a tremendous turnaround. Haman and his ten sons were hanged, and all his henchmen lost their lives. The Jewish people were recognized as a fine people, dedicated to the Persian-Median government and staunch in their Jewish practice, and everybody lived happily ever after.

That’s the Purim story as it is recorded in the megillah, the Book of Esther.

Where is G‑d?

One of the most intriguing aspects of the megillah is the complete absence of G‑d’s name. In fact, it is the only book in Tanach that does not contain G‑d’s name. There are many suggested explanations for this, but at the most basic level, G‑d’s name does not appear in the megillah because it was a time of great concealment—G‑d’s involvement in the miracle of Purim was deliberately hidden.

This concealment is alluded to in the Torah: The Talmud asks, “Where in the Five Books of Moses do we find an allusion to the name Esther and the Purim story?” Everything can be found in the Torah, albeit sometimes only as a hint or an allusion. The Talmud answers, “The verse says, ‘V’anochi haster astir panai…’ – ‘And I will surely hide My face…’5Haster’ (‘to hide’) and ‘Esther’ are phonetically and grammatically similar. This ‘hiding’ or concealment alludes to the Purim story.”6

There will come a time, G‑d says, when I will conceal Myself and not be readily available to the Jewish people. I will also conceal Myself within the events of nature: this wonderful, righteous woman, Esther, will be queen, and no one will realize that G‑d planted her there. This is where we find a hint to Esther in the Torah.

Where can we find a hint to Haman, the villain of the Purim story, in the Torah? This question is also addressed in the Talmud. After Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge, G‑d spoke to Adam and asked, “Hamin ha’eitz…?” – “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”7

Our sages taught that Haman’s initial success in attempting to harm the Jewish people, G‑d forbid, was linked to the people’s transgression. Which transgression? Partaking of King Ahasuerus’ banquet, where they desecrated G‑d’s name by participating in a meal that flaunted the sacred utensils of the Holy Temple. The first word of G‑d’s question to Adam, “Have you eaten from the tree?” is hamin which is made up of the same letters as the name “Haman.” So Haman’s name is found at the very first instance of transgressing G‑d’s will by partaking in forbidden food.8

And finally, the Talmud asked, “Where is Mordechai’s name alluded to in the Torah?” And the answer is in the parshah of Ki Tisa, where the Torah describes the components and ingredients required to create the anointing oil. One ingredient G‑d instructed Moses to use was “pure myrrh,” which translates in Aramaic to “mara dachia,” the consonants of which spell “Mordechai.”9

The anointing oil symbolizes the concept of elevating something mundane—like spices—to holiness. As the leader of the Jewish people at the time, Mordechai did just that, transforming the mundane, secular aspects of life into holiness. He took his position of political leadership and sanctified it, bringing out its holiness.

Mordechai taught us how to sanctify the everyday aspects of life—including mundane items such as gold or technology. Is gold holy or unholy? Is technology holy or unholy? Mordechai answered the question with a resounding, “Yes!”

This is one of the most beautiful life lessons from our Torah portion, and indeed, it hints at the very purpose of creation, and our role in G‑d’s Divine plan. May we witness the full realization of that plan with the arrival of our righteous Moshiach, who will usher in the era of the Ultimate Redemption—a time when the Divine potential in all things will no longer be concealed, but will be evident for all to see—may it happen speedily in our days. Amen!