Ellington Shul: Shul Tomorrow!

Hi from Israel, everyone!
Sorry I didn't write last week, but I was pretty busy running around from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem.
Anyway, this is just a handy little reminder that we're having services at Knesseth Israel this Saturday at 9am. I'll still be here in Israel, but I hope all of you can go.
I've attached an interesting little tidbit on this week's parsha, I hope you enjoy it.
See you all soon!

Elias Friedman A.S., NREMT-P
& Pongo the Spotted Wonder!
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Aish.com <newsletterserver@aish.com >
Date: Mar 16, 2006 5:59 PM
Subject: Lively Parsha - Ki Tisa
To: Elias Friedman <elipongo@gmail.com>

Welcome   See this article online:
Lively The inside story of the Golden Calf

"We don't understand you, Chur," cried Datan. "We all saw Moses' coffin fly to heaven with our own eyes. He never came down on the 40th day as he promised. Hey, how can any human being survive 40 days without food or water, anyway? Do you think he stored food for 40 days before the invention of the microwave? Obviously, Moses is dead!"

"What have you got against our Golden Calf anyway, Chur?" exclaimed Aviram. "We need a tangible reminder of God's presence in our midst. A permanent spot to feel close to the Almighty, now that we lost the connection we had when we were in the presence of Moses. The form of the calf contains deep kabbalistic secrets!"

Chur, however remained unfazed. "We all heard the Almighty speak at Sinai. He said: No graven images. No ifs, ands or buts! No graven images - however good your intentions are."

The people were beside themselves. "A technicality? Of course God didn't mean that such a holy intention should be considered idolatry. We're trying to connect to God's presence and you're obsessed with technicalities?! If you insist, Chur, we will be forced to eliminate you!"


The Parsha begins with the commandment to take a census of the people. The term for counting is: "Lift up the heads of the children of Israel."

Question: Why is being counted considered such an elevated experience? And why did Moses and Aaron, the leaders of the people, have to take the census and not just any clerk?

Answer: According to the Vilna Gaon, in the days of prophecy you'd go to a prophet and he'd look at your face and tell you all your good and bad points, and what your mission in life should be. Can you imagine the experience of standing before Moses and Aaron themselves, and telling of their lineage. It was surely a "lifting up" to be counted as part of the Jewish nation!


Everyone had to give one half-shekel (a weight of silver worth much more than today's Israeli shekels). It is forbidden by Jewish law to count heads, so everyone contributes coins and we count those instead.

The silver was used to build the Tabernacle. To be counted amongst the Jewish people means to contribute to the sanctity of the nation.

The Torah says that the worth of the shekel was 20 "Gaira" (a small coin; hence the term today "agura" for small Israeli coins). Why must we know this? Half of 20 is 10 which is a whole number. Even though we each contribute our maximum effort (an entire 10), it still only makes up one-half, and we need the teamwork of the entire nation to make a whole.


(1) When Moses went up on Mount Sinai, he told the people he would return in 40 days. In Judaism, a day begins at sunset (e.g., as Shabbat begins on Friday evening). Since Moses went up in the morning, the first day didn't count. But the people counted that day, and due to their miscalculation thought he did not come down on time.

(2) The "Satan" (heavenly power that tests man) showed the people a vision of Moses in a coffin flying to heaven.

(3) The people, nervous about his absence, demand that Aaron provide a substitute (obviously for Moses, not for God). Aaron, having witnessed the murder of Chur (who had protested the demand), agreed and began creating the Golden Calf all by himself, in order to stall for time until Moses will ultimately arrive. When Aaron finished, he proclaimed " a holiday to the Lord (not the calf) tomorrow!"

(4) The people woke up early (it's always easier to get up early to have fun). They were negatively influenced by the "mixed multitude" of Egyptian converts who quickly reverted to their idolatrous heritage. " These are your gods (plural) that took you out of the land of Egypt," they said. In other words, this represents your God.

(5) A few Jews worshiped the calf overtly, some covertly, and most condoned those who did because basically they had good intentions. The tribe of Levi (the rabbinic students of that generation) did not worship it at all.

(6) During all this, Moses was up on the mountain receiving the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Then God told him to go down immediately: "Your people have messed up!"

(7) Moses came down with the stone tablets. When confronted with the Golden Calf, he threw them down, shattering them at the base of the mountain.

Question: Why did Moses bring the tablets down in the first place?

Answer: Moses figured that the people made an intellectual mistake, in somehow thinking this calf was a god. "If I take the tablets and show them the truth, we can have an intellectual discussion (a 'Discovery Seminar!'), and I will show them the truth."

However, when Moses saw them dancing in front of the calf, emotionally involved, there was no other way except "shock treatment" to make them come to their senses. When the Jewish people witnessed the smashing of the tablets, they realized they had lost the opportunity to receive God's message "in writing."


Question: How could a nation who had just witnessed 10 plagues, the splitting of the sea and heard the Almighty at Sinai, suddenly take off their gold jewelry, carve out an idol, and proclaim that this idol had taken them out of Egypt? Were they in their right minds?

Answer: The Jewish people are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who knew God and were in contact with Him. They conveyed to their children the basic concepts of how the Almighty wants humanity to live. They were only missing the details. Until the revelation at Sinai, they would use their genius intellect and determine the will of God in every situation. This method was fine until Sinai. Once they heard Divine revelation, they now had to subordinate their intellect to the higher intelligence of God.

This, in essence, was the sin of the Golden Calf. The Jews knew they needed a tangible representation of the Divine in their midst. This in essence, was the Tabernacle. However there is a difference. When God commands you to build an edifice that He will sanctify with His presence, that is a Tabernacle. When man decides to bring God down to him, that is idolatry. A fine, but important distinction. There can be no "man-made religion." Only when God Himself relates to man is it meaningful.


(8) Moses destroyed the Golden Calf. (How did they allow him if they really considered it a god?) He burnt it in fire and crushed it into dust which he mixed with water and made the people drink.

(9) The tribe of Levi was distinct from the masses. When Moses proclaimed: "Whoever is on God's side, come to me!" the entire tribe of Levi presented their credentials. Moses ordered them to consecrate themselves to God by putting to death all overt worshippers of the calf. This included their own relatives who had worshiped the calf.

(10) Those who overtly sinned (3,000, less then one-tenth of one percent) were decapitated by the Levites. Those who sinned covertly (without warning and witnesses) died in the plague (as a result from drinking the "water"). The entire rest of the nation was guilty of "inaction."


The Chafetz Chaim once asked a Jew if he was a Kohen or Levi. When he replied to the negative, he asked, "Why not?"

"Because my father wasn't."

"And why wasn't he?" the Chafetz Chaim demanded to know.

"Because his father wasn't."

(Sounds like the joke about the Jew who offered to pay the rabbi $10,000 to make him a Kohen, since his father and grandfather were Kohanim, he also wanted to be one!)

The Chafetz Chaim, who was a Kohen, told the man: "The difference between you and I is that many generations ago in the desert, when Moses proclaimed, 'Who is on God's side, come to me,' my ancestor came and yours didn't. That makes the tribe of Levi special. The lesson is, the next time someone says 'Who's on God's side, come to me' - you go!"


(11) Moses asked God to forgive the people, even risking his own neck in the process. When God offered to destroy the entire nation and make Moses a new "Abraham," he flatly refused. "If a chair with 3 legs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) cannot stand, how much more so one leg!" In other words, Moses argued that the first time his descendents would sin, God would destroy them.

Moses evoked the forefathers and their merit. God revealed to him the "13 Attributes of Mercy" that are never unanswered - as long as we are emulating God's merciful/compassionate attributes!

(12) God forgave the people, and then, Moses (seeing he's got a good thing going) made the most incredible request in all of human history: "Let me see Your face" (not to be taken literally).

(13) In the aftermath of the great transgression, Moses received the greatest level of prophesy conceivable. The Sages say that the most righteous man cannot compare to the "Baal Teshuva" whose depths of sin makes him strive for something higher. As the nation repented their grave mistake, they rose to such spiritual heights that their representative (so to speak) could perceive God - back view only (not to be taken literally)!

(14) As a result of his close encounter with the Almighty, the face of Moses became illuminated with a spiritual shine. When the people saw his countenance, they approached him with awe. Moses then covered his face with a veil. Only when he taught Torah did Moses reveal the blinding illumination.

(The famous statue of Michelangelo's "Moses" with a horn is based on a mistranslation. They confused "ray of light" with "horn of light" and that's how Moses got a horn!)

This article can also be read at: http://www.aish.com/torahportion/livelyparsha/Lively_Parsha_Ki_Tisa.asp

Author Biography:

Rabbi Avi Geller has been a senior lecturer at Aish Hatorah since 1980. He is an alumnus of Lakewood, Be&#39er Yaakov and Mir Yeshiva and gives a very popular weekly Parsha class in Jerusalem&#39s Old City. Over 80 tapes are available at Aish audio center, including 50 tapes on the entire Chumash, Mitzvah series, and Holiday series. He lives in Jerusalem with his wife and 8 children.

Buy audio tapes by Avi Geller online: click here.

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Last Day in Tel-Aviv

On our last day in Tel Aviv, we went to a community center run by Ethiopian Jews for the youth of their community, who were all still at school when we visited.

The men who ran the center told of us how they came to be in Israel. How they used to think they were the only Jews in the world and were segregated from the rest of their communites, and of how they had yearned for Jerusalem for centuries. That they heard a rumor about an airlift from the border of Sudan, so they walked seven hundred miles only to end up confined by the Sudanese in a disease ridden refugee camp which was fatal for many of the young and the old. Then of how they felt when they finally arrived in Israel only to be told that they weren't Jewish "enough" and would have to convert!

Being a country Jew myself and understanding how hard it is even for me to keep in touch with all the details of "mainstream" Orthodox Judaism, I can certainly sympathize.

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Last Day in Tel Aviv

On our last day in Tel Aviv we went to visit a community center and met a couple of more Ethiopian Jews. This time they were the people who ran the center for the youths who were still in school when we visited. They told their own stories of how that they used to think they were the only Jews in the world and they had yearned for Jerusalem for centuries. How they had walked for literally hundreds of miles and ended up in a refugee camp for months. And how they felt when they came to Israel and were told by the Rabbis that they weren't Jewish "enough" and would have to convert!

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The Room I shared with Jeff

Just wanted to show everyone just how ridiculously close the beds were in the room I shared with Jeff were. I kept pulling the beds apart and housekeeping kept putting them back together!

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A Big Party

Tel Aviv One ran a great big bash of a party which I got back in time for them just putting the food away!

They had Rock Bands, Jugglers, Food, Drinks, Wine Tasting, Artists, Parve Ice Cream & Deserts, and lot and lots of dancing!

I think everyone had a pretty good time!

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Visiting My Niece

I, however, didn't go shopping. I hopped on a train up to Haifa and visited my niece Marissa. Marissa had a baby boy on February 27th and her mom (my sister Adelle) who was also visiting her asked me to bring some stuff from the US. (remember the spilled Epsom Salt?)

I only stayed for a few minutes because I had to get back to the conference, but I managed to snap a few pix of Marissa, her husband Yanki, the new baby, and my sister Adelle.

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Back to the Hotel

Mindy, Andrew, & Jeff sitting across from me on the way back to the Hotel.

We were all happy at the prospect of about three hours of free time. I believe many went shopping.
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... And yet more painting

Sorry, but my software only lets me post these in groups of four or less, otherwise I would've put them all in one post...

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More painting with our new friends

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Painting with the Olim

We then adjourned to a rec-room where we got to know these new Ethiopian Olim better by getting to paint watercolor and charcoal pastel pictures with them.

Some of the drawings were professional level, but I didn't get a pix of those, sorry!

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