Parashat Ki Tissa--Exodus 30:11-34:35
icon questions

Questions for Young Children
• Why do you think it was wrong for B’nei Yisrael to make a golden calf?
• When you anger your parents, how do you make things right with them?
• Has anyone ever told you that your smile or your face lights up the room? What do they mean when they say that?

Questions for Older Children
• This parasha begins with a rule that every Israelite has to pay one-half shekel tax. Do you think that’s fair? Why or why not?
• Bezalel is described as a very skilled craftsman who is knowledgable and has great understanding. Do you think artists are born with great skill and ceaftsmanship or do you think they develop as they grow?
• How do you understand the phrase that Moshe’s face emitted karnei or (rays of light)?

Questions for Teens and Adults
• Each Israelite – no matter his wealth—is ordered to pay half a shekel. Why do you think God commanded that everyone pay the same amount as a kind of a tax? Do you think it should have been a graduated tax?
• What is the motivation behind B’nei Yisrael’s creation of the golden calf? Do you think Aharon could have redirected them? How?
• How does Moshe deal with the calf incident? How do you rate his leadership skills in this instance?
• Moshe is described in the Hebrew text as emitting karnei or. In the Latin (Vulgate) translation karnei or is translated as "horns of light". What problems has that translation caused throughout the ages?  How do you understand the phrase?

icon additional


Since the parasha includes the golden calf and the maftir includes the red heifer, it might be the Shabbat for meat. (Some smarty pants at the table may suggest consuming an evil tasting powder instead  32:20)


icon parash

This parasha opens with a census and a tax of one-half shekel per Israelite. The remainder of the parasha highlights three examples of craftsmanship. Bezalel’s skill is informed by hokhma(wisdom) and t’vunah (understanding). Following God's directions, he fashions magnificent ornamentation for the mishkan. While Moshe is atop Mt. Sinai for forty days, B’nei Yisrael get restless. To pacify the people and ease their fears, Aharon takes charge of building a golden calf from the Israelites’ gold. It may be beautiful, but the calf challenges commandment #2. When Moshe sees the calf, he smashes the tablets, the calf is ground up and the Israelites are forced to drink the mix of ground up golden calf and water. Moshe then becomes a craftsman, too, and carves two new tablets. Between the direction to Moshe to select Bezalel as head artist and the giving of the two tablets of the Pact, God speaks to Moshe for six verses to remind the Israelites to keep Shabbat, the consequences for non-observance, and the reason for Shabbat observance.  God calls Shabbat ot ha-brit (the sign of the covenant).

The parasha describes Moshe’s face as emitting karnei or, beams of light when he descends from Mt. Sinai. It closes with an unusual description of how Moshe communicates to B'nei Yisrael and to God. Moshe veilis his face when speaking to B’nei Yisrael and unveils his face when he speaks to God. 


Find the food connection
לד וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה קַח-לְךָ סַמִּים, נָטָף וּשְׁחֵלֶת וְחֶלְבְּנָה, סַמִּים, וּלְבֹנָה זַכָּה: בַּד בְּבַד, יִהְיֶה. לה וְעָשִׂיתָ אֹתָהּ קְטֹרֶת, רֹקַח מַעֲשֵׂה רוֹקֵחַ, מְמֻלָּח, טָהוֹר קֹדֶשׁ

And the Lord said to Moses, “Take to you sweet spices, storax, and onycha, and galbanum; these are sweet spices with pure frankincense of each shall there be a like weight; And you shall make it a perfume, a confection according to the art of the apothecary, mixed together, pure and holy.”  Exodus 30:34-35

Our recipe won’t challenge the prohibition to reproduce the incense recipe, but I’ve selected a fragrant, spicy Indian chicken as the main dish to recall the unusual herb and frankincense mixture.


The Side Dish

Like most talents or skills, artistic talent can be used to beautify, enhance, and understand the world or it can be used for less savory purposes. When I taught about the propaganda art of the USSR, Communist China, and Nazi Germany, I was frequently struck by the craftsmanship and esthetic of the propaganda posters. Despite this craftsmanship, the messages of the posters made my skin crawl. They were ugly messages of hate and destruction often depicted as patriotism. I have thought about the descriptors of Bezalel as a wise person, a person of understanding. Opposed to his artistic creations that elevated the worship of God, stands the golden calf. It was a rebellion against God’s commandment and it perverted worship. Once destroyed, even the precious gold could not be recycled into new objects of worship. Perhaps a good artist is not only a skilled one, but also one with a good soul and a good heart. Encourage your children to create a work of art this week that follows the path of Bezalel and enhances your Shabbat celebration.

icon dashe

A Dash of Hebrew

In Hebrew the word for India is Hodu. For those of you familiar with Megillat Ester, you’ll remember the merism, mi Hodu v’ad Kush (from India to Ethiopia), as the description of the breadth of Ahashuerus’s kingdom. Hodu is also a homonym for the Hebrew imperative,“give thanks.” Many times during the year when the word “thanks” or “thanksgiving” appear in the parasha, I turn to Indian food. Hodu is the first refrain for one of the psalms in the Hallel and, again, when Rosh Hodesh falls on Shabbat and we recite Hallel, I frequently prepare an Indian dish. By the way the word for Hodu doesn't appear this week's parasha, but thanks are always timely.

A Second Dash of Hebrew
Keren. It's Hebrew name. It can mean the horn of an animal. It can mean a ray of light. Or it can mean a fund as in Keren Kayemet. If you’ve seen Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moshe as a lawgiver, you know it includes Moshe with horns. You probably also know that many medieval European Christians believed that all Jews had horns. Why does one word have so many meanings? It happens in all languages as they develop. A concrete term can become abstract. How did keren come to mean a fund? Plenty to discuss here!


A Dash of Mishnah, Gemara, and Rashi

Why do we read about the red heifer before Pesah? (from Numbers19:1-22) We can all think about other passages from the Torah that remind us of Pesah in a more direct way.

In the Mishnah and Talmud repeating the Mishnah (Megillah 29a) the passage states:

זכור בשלישית פרה אדומה ברביעית החודש הזה לכם בחמישית חוזרין לכסדרן

On the second Shabbat, the Shabbat prior to Purim, they read the portion: “Remember what Amalek did” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19), which details the mitzva to remember and destroy the nation of Amalek. On the third Shabbat, they read the portion of the Red Heifer [Para] (Numbers 19:1-22), which details the purification process for one who became ritually impure through contact with a corpse. On the fourth Shabbat, they read the portion: “This month [haḥodesh] shall be for you” (Exodus 12:1-20), which describes the offering of the Paschal lamb. On the fifth Shabbat, they resume the regular weekly order of readings and no special portion is read.

The Talmud doesn't include a discussion of "why?" but, rather focuses on the when and what ifs of the calendar.  It's left to Rashi to comment on why Parah Adumah (the red heifer)?  Rashi writes: 

 פרה אדומה - להזהיר את ישראל לטהר שיעשו פסחיהן בטהרה

"Parah adumah (the Red Heifer)[section is read] to warn Israel to purify [themselves] so they can perform the Pesah sacrifices in ritual purity." 

This made sense when the Temple stood, Pesah was a pilgrimage festival, and sacrifices were made.  There are hints to the "why" from a rabbinic viewpoint when you consider the Haftarah from Ezekiel 36:16-38 that accompanies the maftir.  Invite your Shabbat guests to think about a contemporary meaning for the red heifer.  More on the bewildering commandment when we reach Parashat Hukkat, the section in BaMidbar (Numbers) where we encounter this strange commandment.



icon recipe

Spicy Indian Chicken with Chutney
Gluten free—serves 6 to 8


  • 1 9-12 oz. jar of prepared chutney (whatever flavor appeals to you)  rsz 09 ki tisa indian chutney chicken copy 2 copy
  • 4 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 8- 6 oz. skinless and boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs
  • salt


  1. Heat oil in small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Add all spices (except salt) and cook 1 min., stirring frequently.
  3. Brush mixture evenly on both sides of chicken and salt.
  4. Prepare a broiler pan with cooking spray.
  5. Broil chicken 7 minutes per side or until chicken is done. Can be held in the oven at a low temperature until Shabbat.
  6. Serve with prepared chutney over chicken.

This Week's Tasting Torah Portion

This Week's Parasha-Related Recipe

Get Tasting Torah's Free Newsletter

Contact Tasting Torah

Don't have an account yet? Register Now!

Sign in to your account