Ki Tisa

When You Take a Census
Exodus 30:11−34:35
Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary (CCAR Press)

KiTisa30:11] The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: 12] 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. 13] This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel as an offering to the Eternal. 14] Everyone who is entered in the records, from the age of twenty years up, shall give the Eternal’s offering: 15] the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel when giving the Eternal’s offering as expiation for your persons. 16] You shall take the expiation money from the Israelites and assign it to the service of the Tent of Meeting; it shall serve the Israelites as a reminder before the Eternal, as expiation for your persons.

17] The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: 18] Make a laver of copper and a stand of copper for it, for washing; and place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar. Put water in it, 19] and let Aaron and his sons wash their hands and feet [in water drawn] from it. 20] When they enter the Tent of Meeting they shall wash with water, that they may not die; or when they approach the altar to serve, to turn into smoke an offering by fire to the Eternal, 21] they shall wash their hands and feet, that they may not die. It shall be a law for all time for them—for him and his offspring—throughout the ages.

22] The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: 23] Next take choice spices: five hundred weight of solidified myrrh, half as much—two hundred and fifty—of fragrant cinnamon, two hundred and fifty of aromatic cane, 24] five hundred—by the sanctuary weight—of cassia, and a hin of olive oil. 25] Make of this a sacred anointing oil, a compound of ingredients expertly blended, to serve as sacred anointing oil. 26] With it anoint the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Pact, 27] the table and all its utensils, the lampstand and all its fittings, the altar of incense, 28] the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand. 29] Thus you shall consecrate them so that they may be most holy; whatever touches them shall be consecrated. 30] You shall also anoint Aaron and his sons, consecrating them to serve Me as priests.

31] And speak to the Israelite people, as follows: This shall be an anointing oil sacred to Me throughout the ages. 32] It must not be rubbed on any person’s body, and you must not make anything like it in the same proportions; it is sacred, to be held sacred by you. 33] Whoever compounds its like, or puts any of it on a lay person, shall be cut off from kin.

34] And the Eternal One said to Moses: Take the herbs stacte, onycha, and galbanum—these herbs together with pure frankincense; let there be an equal part of each. 35] Make them into incense, a compound expertly blended, refined, pure, sacred. 36] Beat some of it into powder, and put some before the Pact in the Tent of Meeting, where I will meet with you; it shall be most holy to you. 37] But when you make this incense, you must not make any in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be held by you sacred to the Eternal. 38] Whoever makes any like it, to smell of it, shall be cut off from kin.

31:1] The Eternal One spoke to Moses: 2] See, I have singled out by name Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. 3] I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft; 4] to make designs for work in gold, silver, and copper, 5] to cut stones for setting and to carve wood—to work in every kind of craft. 6] Moreover, I have assigned to him Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan; and I have also granted skill to all who are skillful, that they may make everything that I have commanded you: 7] the Tent of Meeting, the Ark for the Pact and the cover upon it, and all the furnishings of the Tent; 8] the table and its utensils, the pure lampstand and all its fittings, and the altar of incense; 9] the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and the laver and its stand; 10] the service vestments, the sacral vestments of Aaron the priest and the vestments of his sons, for their service as priests; 11] as well as the anointing oil and the aromatic incense for the sanctuary. Just as I have commanded you, they shall do.

12] And the Eternal One said to Moses: 13] Speak to the Israelite people and say: Nevertheless, you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the Eternal have consecrated you. 14] You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you. One who profanes it shall be put to death: whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among kin. 15] Six days may work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Eternal; whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. 16] The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant for all time: 17] it shall be a sign for all time between Me and the people of Israel. For in six days the Eternal made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day [God] ceased from work and was refreshed.

18] Upon finishing speaking with him on Mount Sinai, [God] gave Moses the two tablets of the Pact, stone tablets inscribed with the finger of God.

32:1] When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god 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.” 2] Aaron said to them, “[You men,] take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3] And all the people took off the gold rings that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4] This he took from them and cast in a mold, and made it into a molten calf. And they exclaimed, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!” 5] When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron announced: “Tomorrow shall be a festival of the Eternal!” 6] Early next day, the people offered up burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; they sat down to eat and drink, and then rose to dance.

7] The Eternal One spoke to Moses, “Hurry down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted basely. 8] They have been quick to turn aside from the way that I enjoined upon them. They have made themselves a molten calf and bowed low to it and sacrificed to it, saying: ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’”

9] The Eternal further said to Moses, “I see that this is a stiffnecked people. 10] Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation.” 11] But Moses implored the Eternal his God, saying, “Let not Your anger, Eternal One, blaze forth against Your people, whom You delivered from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand. 12] Let not the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he delivered them, only to kill them off in the mountains and annihilate them from the face of the earth.’ Turn from Your blazing anger, and renounce the plan to punish Your people. 13] Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, how You swore to them by Your Self and said to them: I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, and I will give to your offspring this whole land of which I spoke, to possess forever.” 14] And the Eternal renounced the punishment planned for God’s people.

15] Thereupon Moses turned and went down from the mountain bearing the two tablets of the Pact, tablets inscribed on both their surfaces: they were inscribed on the one side and on the other. 16] The tablets were God’s work, and the writing was God’s writing, incised upon the tablets. 17] When Joshua heard the sound of the people in its boisterousness, he said to Moses, “There is a cry of war in the camp.” 18] But he answered,

“It is not the sound of the tune of triumph,

Or the sound of the tune of defeat;

It is the sound of song that I hear!”

19] As soon as Moses came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, he became enraged; and he hurled the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. 20] He took the calf that they had made and burned it; he ground it to powder and strewed it upon the water and so made the Israelites drink it.

21] Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought such great sin upon them?” 22] Aaron said, “Let not my lord be enraged. You know that this people is bent on evil. 23] They said to me, ‘Make us a god to lead us; for that fellow Moses—the envoy who brought us from the land of Egypt—we do not know what has happened to him.’ 24] So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off!’ They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!”

25] Moses saw that the people were out of control—since Aaron had let them get out of control—so that they were a menace to any who might oppose them. 26] Moses stood up in the gate of the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Eternal, come here!” And all the men of Levi rallied to him. 27] He said to them, “Thus says the Eternal, the God of Israel: Each of you put sword on thigh, go back and forth from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay sibling, neighbor, and kin.” 28] The men of Levi did as Moses had bidden; and some three thousand of the people fell that day. 29] And Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves to the Eternal this day—for each of you has been against blood relations—that [God] may bestow a blessing upon you today.”

30] The next day Moses said to the people, “You have been guilty of a great sin. Yet I will now go up to the Eternal; perhaps I may win forgiveness for your sin.” 31] Moses went back to the Eternal and said, “Alas, this people is guilty of a great sin in making for themselves a god of gold. 32] Now, if You will forgive their sin [well and good]; but if not, erase me from the record which You have written!” 33] But the Eternal said to Moses, “Only one who has sinned against Me will I erase from My record. 34] Go now, lead the people where I told you. See, My angel shall go before you. But when I make an accounting, I will bring them to account for their sins.”

35] Then the Eternal sent a plague upon the people, for what they did with the calf that Aaron made.

33:1] Then the Eternal One said to Moses, “Set out from here, you and the people that you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring will I give it’— 2] I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites— 3] a land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go in your midst, since you are a stiffnecked people, lest I destroy you on the way.”

4] When the people heard this harsh word, they went into mourning, and none put on finery.

5] The Eternal said to Moses, “Say to the Israelite people, ‘You are a stiffnecked people. If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you. Now, then, leave off your finery, and I will consider what to do to you.’” 6] So the Israelites remained stripped of their finery from Mount Horeb on.

7] Now Moses would take the Tent and pitch it outside the camp, at some distance from the camp. It was called the Tent of Meeting, and whoever sought the Eternal would go out to the Tent of Meeting that was outside the camp. 8] Whenever Moses went out to the Tent, all the people would rise and stand, at the entrance of each tent, and gaze after Moses until he had entered the Tent. 9] And when Moses entered the Tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the Tent, while [God] spoke with Moses. 10] When all the people saw the pillar of cloud poised at the entrance of the Tent, all the people would rise and bow low, at the entrance of each tent. 11] The Eternal would speak to Moses face to face, as one person speaks to another. And he would then return to the camp; but his attendant, Joshua son of Nun, [serving as] deputy, would not stir out of the Tent.

12] Moses said to the Eternal, “See, You say to me, ‘Lead this people forward,’ but You have not made known to me whom You will send with me. Further, You have said, ‘I have singled you out by name, and you have, indeed, gained My favor.’ 13] Now, if I have truly gained Your favor, pray let me know Your ways, that I may know You and continue in Your favor. Consider, too, that this nation is Your people.” 14] And [God] said, “I will go in the lead and will lighten your burden.” 15] And he replied, “Unless You go in the lead, do not make us leave this place. 16] For how shall it be known that Your people have gained Your favor unless You go with us, so that we may be distinguished, Your people and I, from every people on the face of the earth?”

17] And the Eternal One said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have truly gained My favor and I have singled you out by name.” 18] He said, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” 19] And [God] answered, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name Eternal, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show,” 20] continuing, “But you cannot see My face, for a human being may not see Me and live.” 21] And the Eternal said, “See, there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock 22] and, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by. 23] Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”

34:1] The Eternal One said to Moses: “Carve two tablets of stone like the first, and I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which you shattered. 2] Be ready by morning, and in the morning come up to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to Me, on the top of the mountain. 3] No one else shall come up with you, and no one else shall be seen anywhere on the mountain; neither shall the flocks and the herds graze at the foot of this mountain.”

4] So Moses carved two tablets of stone, like the first, and early in the morning he went up on Mount Sinai, as the Eternal had commanded him, taking the two stone tablets with him. 5] The Eternal came down in a cloud—and stood with him there, proclaiming the name Eternal. 6] The Eternal One passed before him and proclaimed: “The Eternal! the Eternal! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, 7] extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin—yet not remitting all punishment, but visiting the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.”

8] Moses hastened to bow low to the ground in homage, 9] and said, “If I have gained Your favor, O my lord, pray, let my lord go in our midst, even though this is a stiffnecked people. Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your own!”

10] [God] said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will work such wonders as have not been wrought on all the earth or in any nation; and all the people who are with you shall see how awesome are the Eternal’s deeds which I will perform for you. 11] Mark well what I command you this day. I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 12] Beware of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing, lest they be a snare in your midst. 13] No, you must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, and cut down their sacred posts; 14] for you must not worship any other god, because the Eternal, whose name is Impassioned, is an impassioned God. 15] You must not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for they will lust after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and invite you, and you will eat of their sacrifices. 16] And when you take wives from among their daughters for your sons, their daughters will lust after their gods and will cause your sons to lust after their gods.

17] You shall not make molten gods for yourselves.

18] You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread—eating unleavened bread for seven days, as I have commanded you—at the set time of the month of Abib, for in the month of Abib you went forth from Egypt.

19] Every first issue of the womb is Mine, from all your livestock that drop a male as firstling, whether cattle or sheep. 20] But the firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you must break its neck. And you must redeem every male first-born among your children.

None shall appear before Me empty-handed.

21] Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor; you shall cease from labor even at plowing time and harvest time.

22] You shall observe the Feast of Weeks, of the first fruits of the wheat harvest; and the Feast of Ingathering at the turn of the year. 23] Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Sovereign Eternal, the God of Israel. 24] I will drive out nations from your path and enlarge your territory; no one will covet your land when you go up to appear before the Eternal your God three times a year.

25] You shall not offer the blood of My sacrifice with anything leavened; and the sacrifice of the Feast of Passover shall not be left lying until morning.

26] The choice first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Eternal your God.

You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.

27] And the Eternal One said to Moses: Write down these commandments, for in accordance with these commandments I make a covenant with you and with Israel.

28] And he was there with the Eternal forty days and forty nights; he ate no bread and drank no water; and he wrote down on the tablets the terms of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

29] So Moses came down from Mount Sinai. And as Moses came down from the mountain bearing the two tablets of the Pact, Moses was not aware that the skin of his face was radiant, since he had spoken with God. 30] Aaron and all the Israelites saw that the skin of Moses’ face was radiant; and they shrank from coming near him. 31] But Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the chieftains in the assembly returned to him, and Moses spoke to them. 32] Afterward all the Israelites came near, and he instructed them concerning all that the Eternal had imparted to him on Mount Sinai. 33] And when Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face.

34] Whenever Moses went in before the Eternal to converse, he would leave the veil off until he came out; and when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35] the Israelites would see how radiant the skin of Moses’ face was. Moses would then put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with God.

Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, copyright (c) 2016 by CCAR Press. All rights reserved. Translation of Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy from NJPS © 1962, 1985, 1999; CJPS © 2006. Used and adapted by CCAR Press with permission from The Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska Press. No part of this translation may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. For permission, please contact CCAR Press.