By Amy Kalmanofsky, JTS
Kept by Shabbat
Ahad Ha’am famously said: “More than Jews have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jews.” Pretty remarkable coming from the founder of cultural Zionism!
Parashat Ki Tissa either supports or challenges Ha’am’s words. This week’s parashah relates one of the lowest moments in Israel’s story—the sin of the golden calf—in which Israel dances before a god of their own making. Coming down Mount Sinai with the stone tablets inscribed by God’s finger (Exod. 31:18), Moses sees Israel’s frenzy and smashes the tablets. Moses spends the rest of the parashah picking up the pieces and working to restore Israel’s relationship with God. The parashah ends with God giving a new set of tablets to Moses. The holy covenant between God and Israel is restored.
By Lilly Kaufman for JTS
The Jewelry of a Master Teacher
Without using alchemy, the 16th-century Italian commentator Seforno (1470–1550) turned gems into gold. Writing a few short words about the gemstones that adorned the clothing of the High Priest, described in Parashat Tetzavveh, Seforno shares a truly fine insight about achieving greatness as an educator.
We read in Exodus 28:2, “And you shall make sacred garments for Aaron your brother, for honor and for glory.” On the word tiferet (glory), Seforno asserts that the High Priest will be a kohen-moreh norah, an awesome priest-teacher. He explains, שהם תלמידיו החקוקים על לבו וכתפיו, “for they are his students who are engraved on his heart and shoulders.”
By Daniel Nevins, JTS
A Symbol of Peace
The Arch of Titus in Rome is simultaneously one of the saddest and most exciting places for a Jew to stand. It is but a short distance from the Colosseum, the stadium made famous by its cruel sports, built with money plundered from the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE. Titus’s Arch celebrates the destruction of our Temple, a building designated by Isaiah to be a house of prayer for all nations. A bas-relief sculpture on the arch’s inner walls depicts a sickening scene: the triumphant display of the Temple’s sacred objects, the Menorah most prominent among them, along with a pathetic procession of enslaved Jews.