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Ki Tisa 5776

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

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  A friend of mine went for his annual physical at age 50. Being of thin build, exercising an hour a night and having no complaints, he was just being prudent. While sitting across the desk from his doctor discussing the various tests, BAM! He drops to the floor with a heart attack. No pulse, no breath. The doctor calls a code. Immediately 3 cardiologists are working on him. They get a pulse ... and BAM! His heart stops a second time. They bring him back and BAM! He's down for the third time ... and what seems to be for "the count." Yet, they revive him and stabilize him.

When he told me this story, I responded, "WOW! You died not once, but 3 times. Had you been anywhere else than in that clinic, you'd be dead! This experience must have made you think about your life -- what you've accomplished, what you hope to accomplish, your values, your ambitions, your family, your relationship with the Almighty. How did this experience impact your life?

My friend replied, "You're absolutely right! This event gave me plenty of time to think and to reflect. I realized how precarious life is and that you can die at any moment. So, I decided, 'Why wait? I'll buy that 52 inch plasma screen now.' "

I'm not sure if my friend was kidding me or not (he DID buy the 52 inch plasma screen). However, his story made me think about my life and my priorities. (And I hope it will make you think about your life and your priorities, too!)

A person does what a person desires to do. Unless he or she makes plans and sets goals, a person will just react to what life throws at him until his final day. How does one set priorities or make a plan? Perhaps the easiest way is to write your own obituary. What would you want written there? What would you want people to remember about you? While you're at it, write what you want written on your tombstone, too.

Oftentimes when I speak to elderly people (that is defined as "anyone older than I am"), they tell me, "As long as you have your health, you have everything!" When they say that, I think of what my rebbie -- my teacher, -- Rabbi Noah Weinberg once asked me, "What would you say about a person who was 110 years old and in perfect physical health. Pretty good, yes?" And after my agreeing, he serves up the zinger -- "And what would you think if you then found out that he's been in a coma for the last 40 years? Good health isn't everything. Even if you have your mind working, you still need to do something with your life!"

People seek happiness. If you seek happiness, you will not find happiness. If you seek meaning, you will have meaning and happiness. Recently I read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom and highly recommend it. Morrie Schwartz was dying from Lou Gehrig Disease -- slowly his body became progressively paralyzed from the feet up over a period of months until he died. Morrie didn't focus on his debilitation; he focused on what he had left and what he could do -- especially for others. Each of us has something we can do for others that will give us meaning and happiness.

The Torah tells us that "God saw all that He created and behold it was very good ..." (Genesis 1:31). The midrash Breishis Raba expounds, "What is 'very good'? This refers to death." Why is death good? If we didn't know that eventually we are going to die, we would always put off everything until tomorrow. If we had forever to do something, we'd never accomplish anything. A goal without a deadline is not a goal, it is a dream, a fantasy.

How do we make life real for ourselves? Funerals make life real if we take the lesson to heart and remember it. However, when we leave the funeral we tell ourselves, "There is a club of people who die ... and I don't belong!" What if there was a special digital clock sitting on top on your TV (or Home Entertainment Center)? Instead of moving forward, it was counting backwards, counting down the days of your life, the hours of your life, the minutes of your life and the seconds of your life from now until the moment you will die. At what point would you get up from your chair, turn it off and do something? Don't wait to do something with your life!


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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
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"This they shall give, everyone that passes among them that are numbered (in the census), half a shekel of the holy shekel ..." (Exodus 30:13).

How was Moses to know what is the "holy shekel"?

Rashi, the premiere commentator, explains that the Almighty showed Moses a coin of fire. This symbolizes that money has similarities with fire. Fire has the potential to give warmth and to help people prepare food. Fire can also destroy property and even lives. Similarly, money can build and it can destroy. A person can ruin his life and the lives of others in his pursuit of money. If money is utilized properly, one can help many people with it and can build worthwhile institutions.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And in the heart of each person who had a wise heart I have given wisdom" (Exodus 31:6).

Why does the Torah make having a wise heart a prerequisite for the Almighty granting wisdom?

Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz, former Rosh Hayeshiva of the Mir Yeshiva, teaches that from here we see that a person needs wisdom to merit acquiring wisdom. What is this wisdom? It is the heartfelt desire for more wisdom!

We can have a picture of what this desire is from the desire of Haman (in the Purim story) for honor. He was second to the king in power and the entire population of 127 countries bowed to him. Nevertheless, when Mordechai refused to bow down to him, he said that all his honor was as nothing since he was missing one person's honor. So, too, a person who has a deep love of wisdom feels a strong lack for any wisdom he is missing. When you have this love for wisdom, the Almighty will grant you greater wisdom!


Candle Lighting Times

February 26
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:58
Guatemala 5:50 - Hong Kong 6:04 - Honolulu 6:13
J'Burg 6:30 - London 5:04 - Los Angeles 5:22
Melbourne 7:56 - Mexico City 6:20 Miami 5:58
New York 5:17 - Singapore 7:03 - Toronto 5:34

Quote of the Week

It isn't your position that makes you happy or unhappy
-- it's your disposition



Happy 38th Anniversary

David & Marilyn Zinn

With Deep Appreciation to

Ms. Sherri Reese


With Special Thanks to

Dan Banay

Happy 38th Anniversary

Kalman & Shoshana

Love, Dad & Mom Packouz

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