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Ki Tisa 5768

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

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! The apocryphal story is told of a man at the race tracks who sees a rabbi blessing a horse. Figuring the rabbi is close to God, the man places a bet and sure enough the horse wins! Before each successive race, the man observes which horse the rabbi blesses, places his bet and wins. However, even after following the same procedure for the last race, the horse comes in last. The man approaches the rabbi and asks, "How come every horse you gave a blessing won except the last horse?" The rabbi answers, "You need to know the difference between a blessing and a kaddish (the prayer said on behalf of those who have died).

Most Jews are familiar with the blessing over bread, the HaMotzie. However, there are blessings for different types of foods, blessings for mitzvot (commandments) - i.e., putting on tefillin or lighting Shabbat candles, blessings of thanks - when one is saved from an accident, blessings for natural phenomena - seeing a bolt of lightning or hearing thunder, blessings for life events - the birth of a child or a death. There is even a blessing for after going to the bathroom. Don't laugh - imagine if you were unable to relieve yourself or unable to stop relieving yourself. You couldn't live!

What is a blessing? It is a statement or affirmation that begins "Blessed are Thou Lord, our God, King of the Universe..." It is not that we have any power to bless God. He is infinite and lacks nothing. What we are doing is recognizing that the Almighty is the source of all blessings.

Why do we make blessings? Life is a matter of focus. We can eat and sleep and work and eventually die without ever thinking what life is about or the significance of the moment. A blessing focuses us on the Almighty and our relationship with Him.

In the case of food, rather than just tossing the food into our mouth, we focus that this food comes from the Almighty. There are two verses. The first says, "The earth and its fullness is the Almighty's (Psalm 24:1). The second says, "The Heavens belong to God and the earth was given to man" (Psalm 115:16). How is this seeming contradiction resolved? Everything belongs to the Almighty. However, after we recognize that fact through making a blessing, we have permission to partake in the goodness (the food!) He has given us. There is a blessing said after eating which gives thanks to the Almighty for that which He has given us.

After hearing someone say a brocha (Hebrew for blessing), those who hear respond, "Amen." What is "Amen"? It is an acronym for "God is the faithful King." It is an affirmation that one places his trust in the Almighty. All of us trust in something - our intelligence, education, money, power. In truth, one can only truly place his trust in the Almighty. As it says in Psalm 20:8, "There are those who trust in chariots and those who trust in horses, but we, in the name of our God, call out."

There are two ways one can say a brocha. One is by rote with speed and no feeling - just to fulfill the requirement of making the blessing. The second way is to know the words and concentrate on the meaning of the words and the intention of why you are saying the blessing. Really, the second way is the only way to make a blessing. We just sometimes forget the reason why we make the blessing and how we are supposed to do it.

If one makes a blessing with thought and concentration, it is a growth experience. It makes a person more spiritual - more closely connected to the Almighty - through recognizing the Source of the good which he receives and through his expressing gratitude for that good. (Just as it is incumbent upon us to thank God for what He has given us, it is important for us to thank our fellow human beings for what they do for us.)

One time following breakfast with a devout Christian, I explained that I need a minute to say an after-blessing for the food I ate. He was very excited; he sat down, bent his head forward and shut his eyes. As I was saying my after-blessing, every few seconds he was saying with great devotion, "Yes" ... "Yes" ... "Yes." When I finished, I asked him, "I know what I was saying, but what were you doing?" He looked at me with great surprise and responded simply, "I was agreeing with you!" May we all recognize the Source of our blessings and remember to thank Him ... and remember to agree with those who do!

For more on "Blessings" go to!

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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 Bezalel 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 in anger 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:

"And the Almighty spoke to Moshe saying, 'Speak to
the Children of Israel saying, my Shabbat you shall keep, for it is a
sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know
that I am the Almighty Who sanctifies you." (Exodus 31:12-13)

How is Shabbat ("Shabbos" in the Ashkenazic pronunciation) a sign of the relationship between the Almighty and the Jewish people?

The Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, the leading rabbi of his generation until he passed on in 1933, gives two parables to illustrate how Shabbat serves as a sign of the relationship between the Jewish people and the Almighty. When two people are engaged to be married they send each other gifts. Even if difficulties arise between them, as long as they keep the gifts, then we know that they still plan to get married. If they return the gifts, then we know that the relationship between them is over. Similarly, as long as a person observes Shabbat we see that he still has a relationship with the Almighty. The Talmud (Shabbat 10b) describes the Shabbat as a special gift the Almighty gave to the Jewish people. If a person, as it were, returns this gift of Shabbat, it signifies difficulties with the relationship.

The second parable: "When a person opens a new store, he puts a sign outside that tells everyone what kind of store it is. A tailor will have a symbol that shows he is a tailor; a shoemaker will have a symbol that he is a shoemaker. Even if a person travels away for a while, as long as his sign is still on the outside of the store, everyone can expect him to eventually return. As soon as he takes down his emblem from his store, we know that he no longer plans to return."

"When you observe Shabbat," continues the Chofetz Chaim, "you testify that the Almighty created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. By keeping Shabbat you proclaim that you have this awareness. A person who fails to keep Shabbat removes this sign. This is the reason for the importance of Shabbat."

Ahad Ha'am, a secular Jewish author, wrote: "More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people". Throughout the ages Shabbat has been a focal point for the family and the community. Shabbat should be high on your list for an investment in the Jewish future of your family! For a good start, buy Friday Night and Beyond by Lori Palatnik available at your local Jewish bookstore or

(or go to

Jerusalem 4:56
Guatemala 5:50 - Hong Kong 6:05 - Honolulu 6:14
J'Burg 6:27 - London 5:10 - Los Angeles 5:25
Melbourne 7:53 - Mexico City 6:20 - Miami 6:01

New York 5:20 - Singapore 7:03 - Toronto 5:38


Don't belittle ... be big!

Happy 30th Anniversary
Kalman & Shoshana Packouz
Love, Dad and Mom


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