A Torah Thought for Parashat Ki Tisah by Moshe Feiglin
I am not sure if there is another Torah portion with a pace as frenetic as Ki Tisah. The parshah takes us from celestial heights to the lowest of the lows and back again.
Ki Tisah opens with the Temple and its vessels – the purpose of creation. It engages us in the secret of the incense and the secret of Shabbat – the sign of the covenant between G-d and the Jewish People, between the Creator and His Chosen Nation.
From these lofty heights, we fall straight into the sin of the Golden Calf. Could there be a more mortifying descent than this one? But it is specifically from the low point at which Moses found the Nation during the sin of the Golden Calf that he attains an even greater apprehension of G-d and is even allowed to see Him. G-d gives Moses the Second Tablets and the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy and promises him that He will expel the nations living in the Land of Israel.
How can so many different extremes all come together in one Torah portion? The first thing we must remember is that the closer we come to attaining our goals, the more we have to fine-tune our tools and methods. This can be likened to a conquering army. As the soldiers progress, their supply lines become longer and more vulnerable. It is specifically the proximity to the finish line that engenders previously unseen dangers. The greater heights include the potential for more spectacular falls.
In our generation of renewal, we feel this truth very clearly. We were never as close to the Land of Israel, Jerusalem and the Temple as we are now. But in a certain way, we were never farther. In the exile, we dreamed of the Temple. Here and now, few dare to dream such a dream.
The second, deeper insight into the extremes in this week’s Torah portion is that the fusion of all the extremes is not default, but rather, the way things are supposed to be. The essence of our world and of life is the connection between body and soul. The message that the Torah and Temple bear is the point of connection of the physical with the metaphysical. Torah does not teach us to exalt the physical, as does Islam. It does not teach us to revere the meta-physical as detached from the physical, as in Christianity. Torah teaches us the perfect balance between the two. The Torah brings this message to humanity that is constantly teetering between the two extremes, via the Nation of Israel and the Land of Israel.
The Arab world surrounding us is lurching between liberalism and Islam. They cannot achieve the perfect balance because it is concealed here, in Jerusalem, the physical point on earth chosen by the Metaphysical Creator – as the home for His Divine Presence.