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Ki Tisa

Ki Tisa

When You Take a Census

The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: "When you take a census of the Israelite men according to their army enrollment, each shall pay the Eternal a ransom for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled." - Exodus 30:11-12

  • Moses takes a census of the Israelites and collects a half-shekel from each person (30:11-16)
  • God tells Moses to construct a water basin and to prepare anointing oil and incense for the ordination of the priests. Bezalel and Oholiab, skilled artisans, are assigned to make objects for the priests and the Tabernacle. (30:17-31:11)
  • The Israelites are instructed to keep Shabbat as a sign of their covenant with God. God gives Moses the two tablets of the Pact. (31:12-18)
  • The Israelites ask Aaron to build them a Golden Calf. Moses implores God not to destroy the people and then breaks the two tablets of the Pact on which the Ten Commandments are written when he sees the idol. God punishes the Israelites by means of a plague. (32:1-35)
  • Moses goes up the mountain with a blank set of tablets for another 40 days so that God will again inscribe the Ten Commandments. Other laws, including the edict to observe the Pilgrimage Festivals, are also revealed. (34:1-28)
  • Moses comes down from the mountain with a radiant face. (34:29-35)

When do we read Ki Tisa?

2021 Mar 6
/22 Adar, 5781
2022 Feb 19
/18 Adar I, 5782
2023 Mar 11
/18 Adar, 5783


  • By Rabbi Stephanie M. Alexander

    In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, we encounter one of the most troubling episodes in Israelite history and find ourselves, along with generations of commentators, searching for explanations — even excuses — to justify the Israelites’ behavior. Merely steps from Egypt, the land of their enslavement and suffering, and only days removed from the divine miracles that enabled their escape to freedom, the Israelites forget their awesome sense wonder and lapse into impatience, fear, and boredom. With no word from Moses, who is still on up on the mountaintop, the people clamor around Aaron. They demand: and demand that he make them a god that will guide them.

    “Come, make us a god (elohim) who shall go before us, for that fellow Moses — the envoy who brought us from the land of Egypt — we do not know what has happened to him.” Aaron said to them: “[You men,] take off the gold... Continue Reading

  • Torah for Tots

    A guide to help adults learn how to engage young children in a discussion about this week’s Torah portion.  

  • Torah for Tweens

    Explore this week’s Torah portion with “Family Shabbat Table Talk” lessons, perfect for families with tweens.

  • Torah for Teens

    In this week’s parasha, Moses takes a census of the people. Then Moses goes up to the mountain to get the tablets. While he’s gone, the people and Aaron build a golden calf. God wants to destroy the people, but Moses tells God not to do so. But Moses sees the calf and gets so angry that he destroys the tablets. Listen to find out what happens next! 

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