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Ki Tisa 5775

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

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Someone once said, "The problem with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat!" We live in hectic times – perhaps more hectic, intense, frenzied, pressured, multi-tasking, pulled in all directions at once than any time in history. With the cell phone, email, Facebook, Twitter, texting ... we are connected 24 hours a day. Even our vacations are scheduled and crammed to milk every last experience out of our time away from the grind. Is it true that he who dies with the most toys wins? Is this life? Running on a treadmill and only getting off when you fall off dead?

For thousands of years the Jewish people have had the secret to balancing life – Shabbos! One day a week from before sunset on Friday to after the stars come out Saturday night the Jewish people have celebrated Shabbos ("Shabbat" in Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew; "Sabbath" in English). For 25 hours no telephone, no televisions, no traffic, no rushing. Shabbos is a time to reconnect to the Almighty, to things spiritual and to put the material world in proper perspective. For as the Almighty said, "You shall observe My Sabbaths for it is a sign between Me and you for all generations to know that I am the Lord, Who makes you holy" (Exodus 31:13).

It used to be that the norm for the Jewish people was to celebrate and observe the Shabbat. The declination in observance is not because we know more or are better educated in our heritage than our ancestors. Perhaps in secular knowledge we know more than our forebearers, but a Jew in our age can have a Ph.D. in physics and be on a kindergarten level in his Torah knowledge. Many don't know the beauty of our heritage.

For many Jews of our generation, observing Shabbat is considered perhaps quaint, possibly medieval, even antiquated. One might hear comments like "Ridiculous! Not turn off and on lights? Not answer the telephone? It could be important!" Possibly there is a fear amongst some non-Shabbat observers about trying to observe a Shabbat – "I'll be embarrassed because I don't know what to do! I might make a mistake!"

I would like to paint a picture of what Shabbat is like in the mind of a Shabbos observer: All week long it's work hard, run around, accomplish ... but in the back of one's mind it's 4 days to Shabbos, it's 3 days to Shabbos, it's 2 days to Shabbos, tomorrow's Shabbos! And then on Friday, it's preparation to finish off the day's work in time to come home help with the last minute preparations, shower, change into Shabbos clothes (what in America they used to call "Sunday go meeting clothes") and prepare to enter Shabbos.

Eighteen minutes before sunset, the candles are lit and if it's a mother who is lighting them she will say a special prayer and then give each of her children a blessing. A sense of peace spreads over the household. A special quiet. A spiritual warmth. That's it; the work week is over. Whatever was supposed to be accomplished was accomplished. What didn't get accomplished will just have to wait until Shabbos is over.

Shabbos has been called an Island in Time ... peace and tranquility, a time for family and friends. A time which puts life in perspective. The Friday night meal starts with Kiddush prayer said over wine or grape juice. Then comes the motzie, the blessing for bread over the 2 Challahs (special braided bread). Why 2 Challahs? The Torah tells us that during the 40 years in the desert, we received a double portion of manna on Friday to last through Shabbat. The meal may go on for 2 to 3 three hours starting with questions for the kids on the week's Torah portion, special Shabbos songs, words of Torah giving insights into life ... and talking and being with the ones you love! And all of that punctuated by delicious courses of food – soup, fish, salad, chicken, kugels, drinks, desserts. Shabbos is special and every effort goes into making it special, particularly the food.

Want to bring Shabbos into your life? The easiest way is to find a Shabbos observant friend and ask them if you could come for a meal. Don't be hesitant. They will be thrilled that you ask! Avraham our forefather had a tent with 4 doors open to all directions so that passersby could come for a meal. He instilled the value of kindness and hospitality into our Jewish nature. Probably if a friend asked if he could come to your home for a meal with your family, you would be happy; don't think your friend's reaction would be any less than yours! As you see how different families celebrate the Shabbat, you can incorporate into your own Shabbat celebration the foods, customs and even songs.

Learn about Shabbat. I highly recommend Lori Palatnik's Friday Night and Beyond – The Shabbat Experience Step by Step. If you want peace and happiness for your family, Shabbos will make a big difference!


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Torah Portion of the week

Ki Tisa, Exodus 30:11 - 34:35

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 Children of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath an eternal covenant for their generations."

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
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states, "Between Me and the Children of Israel it (Shabbos) is a sign forever: (Ex. 31:17).

The unparalleled importance of Shabbos is evident from the Talmudic statement that if one observes Shabbos properly, it is equivalent to observing the entire Torah ... (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 3). What is it that gives Shabbos this unique status?

The Chafetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, explained with a parable. A proprietor of a store had to close down because business was poor. However, because his name was displayed on the storefront, people assumed that he would reopen one day. Indeed, when economic conditions improved, the store was reopened. When the economy deteriorated again, the store was again closed. This cycle was repeated several times.

One time when he closed his store, the proprietor removed the sign bearing his name. People then knew that this time the store was closed for good. Had there been any hope that he would again reopen, he would not have removed the sign.

This, the Chafetz Chaim said, is the reason for the exclusive importance of Shabbos. By observing Shabbos, one asserts his belief that God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh day. A created world has a purpose. Even if one might deviate from observance of the Torah, the knowledge that there is a Creator leads one to reflect that there is a purpose to existence and that the Creator revealed that purpose. This belief enables one to return to live according to the will and commandments of the Creator.

Shabbos is a sign. It is equivalent to the sign on the store. As long as the sign is intact there is hope that one will observe the rest of the Torah.


Candle Lighting Times

February 27
(or go to

Jerusalem 5:00
Guatemala 5:53 - Hong Kong 6:11 - Honolulu 6:19
J'Burg 6:14 - London 5:32 - Los Angeles 5:36
Melbourne 7:34 - Mexico City 6:25 - Miami 6:07
New York 5:34 - Singapore 7:01 - Toronto 5:55

Quote of the Week

We have to remember to stop ...
because we have to stop to remember
– Judith Shulevitz



With Special Thanks to

James and Patricia Cayne


With Great Appreciation to

Suzanne Lasky Gerard



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