Parshah Columnists

Guest Columnists
From the Golden Calf to the Silicon Chip
Life Lessons From the Parshah - Ki Tisa
When Being Stiff-Necked Becomes a Virtue
The Jewish people could be just as stiff-necked in their loyalty to G‑d as they were in their disobedience.
Were the First Tablets a Mistake?
Why were the first set of tablets given with such fanfare?
Do You Wish You Were a Kid Again?
“Hmm… Thank G‑d, I do work quite hard (my kid said so!), but what is really important? What would I do if I were completely worry free?”
Giving Credit When Credit Is Due
When is there an obligation to name the source you are quoting? And what does that really teach us?
Making Good Choices When Willpower Fails
The problem is not just that we make a poor choice in the moment, but when we fail in our goals, we fall into the depressing cycle of the “willpower trap” that keeps us locked in failure.
G-d's Back
A rabbinical-student-turned-relief-worker reflects on his time in Thailand following the Tsunami of 2004.
We walked past shops that looked like they'd been bombed away. Smoke was rising from the burning debris. A family looking through a heap of rubble at a place they once called home...
To Be and Not To Be
An Ark that is both spacious and spaceless. Whole and shattered Tablets positioned side by side. What lesson can we glean from this?
Shining Soul of Failure
After such an interface with the Divine, how could they have transferred their loyalty to an idol? The Talmud responds by telling us that the Jews were, in fact, above this unseemliness. So what happened?
Owning Our World
Lessons From Parshat Ki Tisa
The lesson that I needed to learn was that of responsibility. As long as my mother “owned” the results of my actions, I didn’t have to. It was only when I was the one who had to deal with the consequences that something shifted . . .
Are You a Fallen Heiress?
She arrived in New York wearing a floor-length yellow sari and couldn’t care less about what she no longer had. She feels differently today.
Will the Real Leader Please Stand Up?
Chur, Aaron, Moses – Three Styles of Leadership
Where was the Jewish leadership during the sin of the Golden Calf? Why were they not able to stop the sinning before it got out of hand?
I Messed Up. Now What?
Sometimes our mistake has devastating consequences. In just a moment of thoughtlessness, lives are shattered. The damage is irreversible. Relationships are severed, reputations sullied beyond repair.
Torah Insights
Defining Work
Whenever the Torah discusses the commandment to build the Tabernacle, the sanctuary constructed in the desert, the Torah also reiterates the commandment of Shabbat.
The Newlyweds
It was inevitable. Sooner or later, you would offend her deeply.
Weekly Sermonette
Heresy Cloaked in Piety
Even if we are not prepared to live a holy life, at least let us be honest...
Picking Up the Pieces
It's too late. I'm too far gone. It'll never be the same. How many times have we heard those words? Or, worse still, said them?
G‑d is Somewhere
G‑d may be everywhere, but I need a G‑d who is somewhere
"Leave Me Alone!"
Who were the sinners who required Divine forgiveness?
Parshah Parenting
Proactive Parenting
Tapping your child’s essential goodness
Is there any benefit in compelling your child to do what is right, when he’s doing so only because he cannot disobey you?
Parshah Musings
How can the observer be sure who is fighting for G‑d and who’s just making excuses—claiming to be fighting for G‑d but in reality motivated out of spite or petty vindictiveness?
Who's a Cheapskate?
Some people are cheap, penny-pinching their way through life. Other people give generously when asked and are equally lavish when spending on themselves. But it’s a rare individual who sacrifices his own creature comforts to better provide for the needs of others.
Organized Religion
Why Keep the Broken Pieces?
Aren't the the broken tablets symbol of our crime and punishment? Why stockpile a souvenir of the depravity to which we sank in the holiest chamber of the holiest edifice on earth?
Strings and Knots
Obsessive Compulsive
What is gained by ritually washing hands which are already clean? A look at the history of medicine might provide an answer...
What’s the Point of Going Through the Motions?
Seemingly empty words and accompanying gestures that are even less sincere. They're not fooling G‑d, so why bother wasting time having people act out a meaningless charade?
Reflections on the Parshah
Two Equal Tablets
What is the primary concern of the religious person -- man-to-man relations or a focus on the Divine?
Golden Calf - Spirituality or Hedonism?
Is the Golden Calf episode justifiable? Can a people searching for spirituality be faulted for making an honest error?
Parshah Moment
Grandma's Worries
G-d gives us things. G-d does not give others these same things. This can and does cause jealousy, an unvoiced "Why does she deserve it?," and somewhere on High that energy does not dissipate. It gravitates, and brings into question "Maybe she doesn’t deserve it after all?"
Kobe, Brooklyn and Egypt
"My face you shall not see," if you look forward, in the present, you won't see Me. But, "I will show you my back," by looking back you will see that I was there all along...
Parshah Messages
Priceless National Treasures
Is there ever a good reason to destroy a national treasure? A trip to the National Archives got me thinking about this subject...
The Fiery Coin
G-d took a coin of fire and showed it to Moses: "Such as this they shall give." Why did G-d need to put on a "show and tell" for Moses?
When Down Is Really Up
The golden calf debacle—in hindsight, how are we to view this catastrophe?
Holiness in Disguise
Not everything which seems holy is in fact so; and not everything which appears to be mundane is in fact unholy...
What the Rebbe Taught Me
Unconditional Love
Fed up with the corruption and immorality he had seen at Pharaoh's palace, Moses had all but given up on bettering the world. He had come to terms with living the life of a private citizen, and began to focus on making local, instead of global, differences. But that was about to change.
Torah for Now
True Mercy
Why is "an abundance of truth" considered one of the attributes of mercy? Truth is a severe and honest judge, unwilling to overlook misdeeds and transgressions...
What Do You Think?
The Mysterious Life and Death of Hur
The story of Hur is one of heroism, tragedy and, ultimately, redemption.
The Word Not Found In G‑d's Dictionary
If Torah says that the episode of the Golden Calf is an "uplifting" story, then that is indeed the case. So what is the deeper meaning that lies behind the seemingly deceiving title?
The Golden Calf in the Middle of the Tabernacle
The road to heaven is paved . . .
Between planning and building the temple, we’ll discuss tablet smashing, idolatry, adultery, and a bunch of other fiascos!
Living through the Parshah
Making Decisions
A person who has a foot on each side of the fence, and never taken a leap of faith in either direction, is less likely to recognize when he or she has veered in the wrong direction . . .
Life's Passages
What’s Good About Failing?
Ki Tisa
Though we strive to have a relationship with G‑d in which we do not fail, mistakes are inevitable.
Unbreakable Devotion
Moses was telling them that due to their grave sin their "contractual agreement" with G‑d had been violated and hence shattered. G‑d was now effectively freed from any commitment to them...
Why Moses Shattered the Tablets—and His Message for Us Today
Ki Tisa
One of the most dramatic scenes from our nation's history unfolds when Moses descended from Mount Sinai holding the tablets containing the Ten Commandments.
For Friday Night
Including Everyone
The incense burned on the golden altar was meant to be the most beautifully aromatic thing around. Why, then, was this foul-smelling ingredient, chelbona, included?
Repairing the Damage
This week's Torah Reading describes an extreme and archetypal form of damage. Yet it also provides advice about repair
At The Highest Level
Sin leaves a "stain" on the spiritual aspect of the person. The highest levels of repentance may be so deep, that now a new level of goodness and holiness is reached, which could only be attained by repentance...
Washing the Hands
We might think it is sufficient if the Divine dwells only in the most spiritual part of our lives. This is why Moses was at first reluctant to accept the mirrors...
A Thought for the Week
The Phenomenon of the "Half"
Can a mere half-shekel atone for the gravest of sins? Perhaps the answer lies in the “halfness” of the coin . . .
The Coins Shone
She scoured and polished the coins till they sparkled, and with a heartfelt prayer that their fortune should also begin to shine, she packed up the coins and gave them to Gavriel to bring to the Rebbe...
Inner Stream
Make Light
We de-light from mundaneness and delight in holiness
The Money Trap
A closer look at the verses describing the Golden Calf debacle reveals some of the underlying issues which led to this national failure -- and teaches us some valuable lessons.
Why the Israelites Made a Calf
Physical objects, they reasoned, can be safely preserved; they don’t walk away and disappear as Moses did
The Counting Paradox
A census achieves two contrary aims. By focusing on the total sum, it asks the individual to suspend his individuality; at the same time, it compels him to ask himself if he is worthy of contributing to the total...
Are You a Forgiver at Heart?
Petty Grudges
The Freeman Files
Where is Life's “Undo” Function?
I've said it many times and let me repeat: The Master of the Universe not only talks to Himself, He talks to figments of His holy imagination. Not only that, those figments of His holy imagination talk back to Him. And He listens...
What's So Terrible About Idolatry?
I don't mean massive temples with human sacrifices. What about a civilized idolater, in the privacy of his own home? What's so terrible?
Thank you, Moses, for Smashing the Tablets
It was his most courageous act. But what did it achieve?
He had always been known as the faithful servant. But this time his words were brash. Brazen. Almost impudent. Dangerously so.
Good as Gold
How did G-d address the gold-sickness of His newly chosen people? He didn't abolish gold. He didn't even take away theirs. He told them to use their gold to build Him a Sanctuary.
What Is Sin?
Is it a bad, harmful deed? Is it the very face of death? Is it mere stupidity? Is it a potent opportunity for conquest and growth? Turns out, it's all four.
The Best Kept Secret in the World
Strip life of its false starts, of its missed opportunities, naive presumptions, fumbling first attempts and learned-it-the hard-way experiences, and what's left? Nothing worth writing home about, let alone going through all that trouble to live a life...
The Lost Cause Scenario
Much is made of Abraham’s valiant efforts to save the city of Sodom, how he went to battle with G‑d on behalf of these very sinful people. But something about the story just doesn’t add up . . .
A House In Three Versions
Who can make the physical world a holy place? One who remains untouched by its coarseness, or one who has succumbed to its temptations and triumphed over them? And what about the one who is still stuck in the morass of the material?
Parshah Recovery
The Golden Sponsor
Moses made demands of the people; when necessary, he rebuked them. A docile calf would do no such thing...
Covenant & Conversation
A Stiff-Necked People
It is a moment of the very highest drama. The Israelites, a mere forty days after the greatest revelation in history, have made an idol: a Golden Calf. G‑d threatens to destroy them.
The Sabbath: First Day Or Last?
The Closeness of G-d
The more I study the Torah, the more conscious I become of the immense mystery of Exodus 33. This is the chapter set in the middle of the Golden Calf narrative.
Two Types of Religious Encounter
Why was the more holy object broken, while the less holy stayed whole?
How Leaders Fail
Leaders can fail for two kinds of reason - interal and external.
Can There Be Compassion Without Justice?
Why must there be justice as well as compassion, punishment as well as forgiveness?
Beyond Speech
Turn Regret Into Relief
This exercise will unburden you. It will allow you to rise above the hurt, the shame and the resentments.
1 + 1 = A Holy One
Why a half-shekel? And if a half holy shekel is a regular shekel, why not simply require a shekel?
Precious Holy Mirrors
Moses was uncomfortable accepting these mirrors, because they were seemingly used for the bidding of the evil inclination.
On the Haftarah: Taking a Stand for Truth
For the Haftarah of KI Tisa, From the Teachings of the Rebbe
The confrontation between Elijah, the prophet of G-d, and 450 prophets of Baal, and its lessons for our daily lives.
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