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A Time for Building Up

Each year on Sukkot, we read these famous words of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet): “A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven. …a time for tearing down and a time for building up.” (Kohelet 3:1,3). To speak of building during a holiday dedicated to erecting a temporary structure seems fitting. And yet, the order the ideas in this verse is at odds with our Sukkot experience. Surely, “a time for building up and a time for tearing down” would align more closely with sequence of the holiday. So why this order? And what exactly are “we tearing down and building up”?

D'var Torah By: 
Impermanence: Everything in Its Time
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Callie Schulman

Every morning, my child and I go for a walk along the beach near our Seattle-area home. It was on our early morning walks that I noticed a stunning collection of stacked and balanced stone sculptures along the rocky shore — dozens of them. One morning we arrived to find that the entire field of rock statues had been leveled. My heart sunk and I let out an audible gasp as multiple thoughts and questions ran through my head once again. It was like the line in The Book of Ecclesiastes, Kohelet, which we read on Sukkot: “Utter futility! ... All is futile!” (Kohelet 1:2).

The Challenge of Holding God Close While Keeping Fear at Bay

The poet Yehuda Amichai writes: I don’t want an invisible god...  I want a god who is seen... , so I can lead him around and tell him what he doesn’t see… ... In this week’s portion, Ki Tisa, we reconnect with this unfinished storyline at the beginning of Exodus 32. While Moses tarries atop Mount Sinai, the people down below are losing their patience:

D'var Torah By: 
Pray that I May Know Your Ways: From Anger to Intimacy
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Laura Rumpf

The divisive episode of the Golden Calf that erupts midway through Parashah Ki Tisa has God steamed! As Rabbi Greenvald illustrates above, a plurality of perspectives and confused motivations surround the construction of the Golden Calf. Common to each interpretation cited seems to be a misunderstanding of the ways in which the other, human or divine, needs to be acknowledged in order to trust in the covenantal relationship.

The Climax of Sukkot and the Profound Joy of the Journey

More than any other Jewish holiday or ritual, I love the audacity of Sukkot. After the many profound words and seemingly endless prayers of the High Holidays, Sukkot offers a very different holiday mode. The main theme and ultimate goal of the holiday is to achieve climactic joy throughout the holiday, including the intermediate days, which are known as Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot.

D'var Torah By: 
How to Experience God’s Wonders Anew
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Benjamin David

On the Shabbat that falls amid the holiday of Sukkot (Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot) we turn our attention to two distinct sections of Torah.... In the Exodus reading, taken from Parashat Ki Tisa, Moses asks to see God’s face, saying: “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!” (Ex. 33:18). While Moses cannot see God’s face, God reminds Moses (and us) that God can be felt, if not seen, in the “wonders” that God enacts for us and those around us (Ex .34:10).

Can We Have a Relationship with God?

In Ki Tisa, Moses, begs God to let him understand the Divine. And yet, we see Moses as having more access to God than any other man. If Moses cannot comprehend God, how can we hope to understand God’s ways?

D'var Torah By: 
Shabbat: The Intersection Between Time and Practice
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Michael E. Danziger

In Ki Tisa, when God says to Moses, Hinei makom Iti, "Here is a place with me," God may have been pointing Moses to the perfect spot in the cleft in the rock. For the rest of us, spread across the earth, who might wish for a place by God, Ki Tisa directs us, as well. For us, Shabbat can be this place. 

The Sukkah and the Jewish Experience

In Leviticus, we are commanded to dwell in a sukkah for one week every year “in order that future generations may know that I made the Israelite people live in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt.” What does the sukkah teach us about the Jewish experience?

D'var Torah By: 
Connecting to the Holiness Within
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Lisa Silverstein Tzur

In preparation for the festival of Sukkot, we construct temporary structures, called sukkot, in which we honor the fragility and impermanence of life, and celebrate our devotion to God. We build these sukkot with love and ardent attention to detail, only to deconstruct them one week later. The temporal nature of the sukkah forces us to take advantage of the fleeting opportunity to rejoice in its shelter.

The 13 Middot: God Is Ethical and So Are We

The Torah reading for Chol HaMo-eid Pesach includes the 13 Attributes of God. The Eternal One passes before Moses and proclaims (according to the prayer book version of the passage): “Adonai, Adonai, a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and granting pardon” (Mishkan T’filah, [NY: CCAR, 2007], p. 496). Here, God self-describes as an ethical being.

 

 

D'var Torah By: 
Fighting Injustice in the World and Worshiping the God of Israel
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman

Rabbi Sussman’s discussion of Hermann Cohen raises our awareness of the tension between the national and the humanist, between the specific God of Israel and the universal God of ethics. This tension is one that has animated my own Jewish learning: What did it mean to want to serve the good of humanity and the planet, yet pray to God in language that was specifically Jewish? How could I be widely inclusive and yet also protect the inherent integrity of tradition?

A Concrete Relationship with God

In Parashat Ki Tisa, the Israelites wait for Moses to return from the mountaintop. Feeling insecure with a lack of leadership, they tell Aaron to create a Golden Calf.

D'var Torah By: 
Religion as a Way to Reach Holiness
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Jason Rosenberg

One of the lessons of Parashat Ki Tisa is that we need concrete reminders, symbols, of our fundamental ideas. But while we embrace them we have to remember that these symbols — whether they be physical, ritual, textual, or other — exist for us, not for God. 

We All Will Die, But We Must Be Grateful

Sukkot is known in Rabbinic tradition as the "Festival of Our Joy" (Z'man Simchateinu, a name that derives from Leviticus 23:40: "You shall rejoice before the Eternal your God seven days"). Sukkot is the only festival for which the command to rejoice is given. It is a commandment — a mitzvah: us'mach'tem — "be happy!" 

D'var Torah By: 
The Sukkah and the Fragility of Peace
Davar Acher By: 
Neal Katz

Sukkot reminds me of the beautiful text of the Haskiveinu prayer in which we praise God for watching over us as we lie down for the evening. We also praise God for spreading over us a sukkah, or shelter, of peace. We close that prayer by blessing God, haporeis sukkat shalom aleinu, "whose shelter of peace is spread over us."

Can You Really Ask God That?

This week's Torah portion, Ki Tisainterrupts the description of the building of the Tabernacle with a long narrative section that includes the story of the Golden Calf, the smashing of the Ten Commandments, the carving of the second set of tablets, and — although perhaps less famously — the most chutzpadik (impertinent) question in the whole Torah.

The question comes after Moses has negotiated twice with God on behalf of the Israelites: first, with moderate success, when he asks God to forgive the people for the sin of the idolatrous Golden Calf; and second, when he successfully convinces God to lead the Israelites along the next stage of their journey.

But Moses' next negotiation with God is not on behalf of the Israelites, but for himself. Out of the blue, it seems, just as God has acceded to his second request, Moses speaks up again. "Oh, let me behold Your Presence!" he says to God (Exodus 33:18).

D'var Torah By: 
Anger and the Voice of (Almost) Reason
Davar Acher By: 
Rachel Ackerman

The dance between Moses and God is always a complicated one, and Ki Tisa offers us no exception.

Just as Moses nears the end of his 40 days and nights atop Mount Sinai and finishing touches are being put on the tablets, God urges Moses to hurry down the mountain because God wants to be left alone to destroy the Israelites for having built the Golden Calf.

But Moses begs God not to destroy these people, telling God that doing so would bring into question God's motives in the first place and make God out to be evil. And God relents to Moses.

So, What’s the Point? Ecclesiastes and Chol HaMo-eid Sukkot

Chances are that many of us are familiar only with the section of Ecclesiastes that begins "To everything there is a season," only because we've heard it at a funeral or – thanks to the late

D'var Torah By: 
Finding a Hopeful Message in Kohelet
Davar Acher By: 
Brian I. Michelson

It is all useless, Kohelet said, it is all useless. Everything is useless. (Ecclesiastes 1:2)1

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