The New Shul

Parshat Ki Tissa

This week’s parashah, Ki Tissa, tells the story of the golden calf. As the children of Israel worshiped the calf at the foot of the mountain, God said to Moshe on the mountaintop, “Go down, for your people has sinned!”

On the surface, God seems to be ordering Moshe to go down to fix the problem. But the talmudic rabbis interpreted God’s words differently. They understood God to be saying, “Moshe, now that the community below has rejected me, this Torah that we are writing up here has no purpose — so you may as well go down.”

According to Rabbi David Hartman, this is what the talmudic rabbis rmeant to teach us through their reinterpretation of God’s words:  Individual “Sinai” moments — experiences of spiritual insight and intensity — have meaning only to the extent that they make a difference in the real world. Judaism is not about experiencing God alone on mountaintops, but about building communities of living Torah in the world below, where people actually live.

Together, may we work to make our Torah matter.