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Ki Tisa 5772

Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Did you ever wonder how prayer works?  If God is all-knowing, all-powerful and good -- then He knows what I need and will give it to me.  He doesn't need me to remind him and certainly I am not going to change His mind by flattering Him or bribery.  So, why pray?

What changes through prayer is not the "Mind" or "Desire" of the Almighty.  What changes in prayer is us.  By recognizing the Source of all of our blessings -- our sustenance, our health, our success, our very existence -- we bring ourselves to a higher spiritual level; we bring ourselves closer to Him. We create a relationship with Him.

And whether the Almighty fulfills one's requests in full or in part is determined by Him as to what is good for us.  We can relate to this as parents.  A child may beg for something that the parent knows is not in the child's best interest and may even be a danger to a child.  The smart and caring parent will do the right thing, do the difficult thing and say "no." That is why all prayers are answered -- sometimes with a "Yes," sometimes with a "No" and sometimes ... with a "Not yet."

When we recognize and appreciate our relationship with the Almighty -- then many of the things that we wanted actually become good for us to have.  We can use them properly for positive ends and they will help us to perfect ourselves and the world around us.

That is why it is a mistake to think that we should only pray for the "Big Things" -- like health and life.  Asking for big things or small things is only from our perspective; to God all things are possible and important.  However, each and every prayer builds that relationship and enhances our comfort and ability to pray.

When the time comes to pray for the big things, it will come easier.  Imagine the difficulties of asking your father or mother for help after not speaking with them for years?

And if you haven't prayed in years, feel it's too late to start, or that you're a hypocrite for praying -- don't worry.  God is the loving parent who wants only good for us and unlike a loving parent who has been ignored for decades and might not listen, God will listen to us when we call out to Him!

How does one start to pray? Go for a walk in a park.  Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed.  Just pour out your heart and talk to God.

If you feel you need structure, you can turn to a Siddur, a prayer book.  I highly recommend the Artscroll Siddur (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). There are many excellent books on prayer.  Thumb through them and see which ones speak to your heart.

Traditionally, prayer has three components based on how one would place a request before an earthly king: 1) Praise (God doesn't need our praises; however, it focuses us to Whom we are talking.)  2) Requests.  3) Thanks.  It is the height of good manners to show appreciation.  A short prayer might go something like: "Almighty, Master of the Universe, Who has given me all good things, please (make your request here).  Thank you for this and for all that you have given me."

There are 5 steps that will help get your prayers answered: 1) Feel God's presence.  You are talking to a loving, all-powerful Being who wants to give you everything that's good.  All over the world God is answering prayers because He loves His children.  2) Expect results.  God has a track record.  If you don't really believe God can and will help you, you're not really praying.  3) Pay attention to what God is teaching you.  Everything that happens is for your good.  If you are in need, realize God is teaching you something.  If you trust Him, you will hear what He is telling you.  4) Get in touch with what you're really after.  Know your bottom line.  You're talking to the awesome Creator, so don't ask for nonsense.  He wants you to grow up.  5) Being serious about what you're praying for means that you're doing everything you can to make it happen.  God will lend a hand only when you put in the effort.  He'll never take away your independence because that's His ultimate gift to you.


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Torah Portion of the Week
Ki Tisa

The Torah portion includes: instructions for taking a census (by each person donating a half shekel); instructions to make the Washstand, Anointing Oil, and The Incense for the Mishkan, the Portable Sanctuary; appointing Betzalel and Oholiab to head up the architects and craftsmen for the Mishkan; a special commandment forbidding the building of the Mishkan on Shabbat (people might have thought that they would be allowed to violate the Shabbat to do a mitzvah ...).

The Torah portion continues with the infamous story of the Golden Calf.  The people wrongly calculated that Moses was late in coming down from Mt. Sinai and the people were already seeking a replacement for him by making the Golden Calf (there is a big lesson in patience for us here).  Moses sees them dancing around the calf and expressing anger he breaks the Two Tablets; he then punishes the 3,000 wrongdoers (less than .1% of the 3 million people), pleads to God not to wipe out the people, requests to see the Divine Glory, and receives the second set of Tablets of the Ten Commandments.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states regarding the gathering of gold to make the Golden Calf:

"And Aharon (Moses' brother and the Cohen Gadol, High Priest) said to them, 'Remove the golden earrings which are on the ears of your wives, sons and daughters, and bring them to me." (Exodus 32:2)

How is it possible that Aharon would help make an idol?

The commentator, Daas Zkainim, explains that Aharon's intentions were righteous.  This is what he said to himself: "Now that Moshe has not returned, if I will appoint Caleb or Nachson as the leader in Moshe's absence, when Moshe returns they will not be eager to give up their position of leadership. This will cause a major quarrel.  If I do not appoint anyone as leader, they will choose a leader themselves and this will also cause a major quarrel.  If I will assume leadership until Moshe returns, perhaps he will feel when he comes back that I tried to usurp his position.  Therefore, until Moshe returns I will keep them busy with talk about making a meaningless golden calf.  The women will be reluctant to give up their jewelry and therefore I will be able to stall for time."

This is an incredible lesson on judging people favorably!  Next time you see someone doing something absolutely inexplicably despicable, before condemning him for his behavior, ask yourself, "What positive motivations and intentions could he possibly have had?"  Maybe if you were to know his true motivations, you'd realize that he meant nothing wrong and even tried to prevent something negative from happening.


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Life is fragile -- Handle with prayer


With Deep Appreciation to

Steven & Leslie Saiontz


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