Finding the Right Timing – Ki Sisa


I’m having an issue with our parsha. It’s really bothering me.

Our parsha opens with the half shekel, a communal effort in which HaShem shows us that every yid is essential. 

We transition to the Laver and korbonos, including the ketores, in which we bring a variety of offerings to HaShem. 

After recognizing we all matter to HaShem and that we all have something of value to offer Him, we reach Shabbos, in which we are commanded to observe Shabbos fully in two ways: through gashmius that leads to ruchniyus. 

It seems like we’re holding on a pretty high level here. The Torah then immediately transitions to a great downfall. Even though historically it may not have been immediate, since the Torah presents it this way, there is something for us to learn. 

The people saw that Moshe had delayed in descending the mountain, and the people gathered around Aharon and said to him, “Rise up, make for us gods that will go before us, for this man Moshe who brought us up from the land of Egypt — we do not know what became of him!”

Shemos 32:1

Jokingly, our parsha shows us the essence of the struggle between chassid and yekki. It seems very clear from the text that Moshe Rabbeinu was a chassid and bnei yisroel was b’rov yekkis. Moshe delayed going about the business to find a more spiritually l’chatchila opportunity to align kabbalos HaTorah with Shabbos. It was all about the ruchniyus, not about being on time. There were those in the crowd that got nervous their mincha wasn’t 20 minutes before shkiah, and opted to start without him. This is very similar to a recent Haftarah where Shmuel HaNavi HaChassid was delayed in arriving to Shaul HaMelech HaYekki. In both cases, the yekkis jumped the guns and it didn’t go well. May we be zoche to recognize the importance of davening slowly, with kevanah, and perhaps starting a few minutes late to let the chassidim finish seder korbonos before mincha. 

Jokes aside, we’re still facing a big issue here.

Even though the Torah mentions timing, the reality is that the timing is just dan l’kaf z’chus. The Eiruv Rav used timing as a pesach with the yetzer hara to win an argument. The Eigel HaZahav was going to happen regardless of the reason, but the Torah hides it, and perhaps also illuminates the issue of timing. 

Timing, whether early, late, fast, or slow, is not the root cause. It’s a symptom. We need to see past the symptoms to find the root cause and make the tikkun there. Every time we use a spiritual bandage over an issue, it doesn’t heal, it’s just serving as a protective measure. We need to get to the infection, the root cause, in order for real healing to occur. 

Back to the Parsha, we are given the Para Adumah as a tikkun for the Cheit HaEigel. I was asked on this and to me it seems pretty obvious. When we make a pagum in our world, the tikkun needs to be of the same kind. When we drink from the kos shel bracha, it needs more wine added to it to be shlema again. When we sin with a calf, we need a calf to fix the issue.

Cheit HaEigel

  • A Calf/Cow
  • “Born” without forming its shape
  • Its ashes were used, like the bitter waters, to indicate guilt and association, bringing Tumah

Para Adumah

  • A Calf/Cow
  • Raised without melacha
  • Its ashes are used to make one Tahor

Turns out, I’m not alone in seeing this connection. Rashi comments on the Medrash on this. It’s very powerful and important for us to see how HaShem makes a tikkun in a very precise manner. 

As a result of the Cheit HaEigel, our korbonos were tainted by an avodah zarah, an foreign service, and were no longer any good. We needed the mitzvah of the Para Adumah to rectify it, on the level of tit for tat. Our korbonos no longer had their power to them until we reached a level of purity that allowed us to make a pure offering again.

Bringing Back Korbonos

Our korbonos were rectified and we can still offer them today. In our siddur korbonos are found in the morning before pesukei d’zimrah. The Chofetz Chaim says offering the korbonos in our tefillah, which Ezra HaSofer instituted Tefillah as a substitute for the daily avodah, is a tikkun for aveiros. The ketores are a pleasing aroma that nullify a harsh decree. We see and know from the text that our tefillos aren’t accepted if there is a block in the way. If that block is connected to lashon hara, then our tefillos get nowhere because HaShem has blocked the gate of our words. Thus, when we recite korbonos and build to ketores, it acts as a pleasing smell of teshuvah in which HaShem then hears our words again, which are immediately followed by words of praise. 

It’s a great tragedy that many don’t understand the power of seder korbonos for both shacharis and mincha, including ketores at the end of shacharis. If we could see the value of it, and that if acts as if it’s the actual korbonos, we would slow down, get kevanah, and say all of them carefully. Microwaving korbonos does no one any good. 

Rebbe Benzion Twerski is very passionate about korbonos for these reasons. Based off the reading in our parsha, if our tefillos are to substitute as the daily avodah, then a logical argument is made that reciting seder korbonos today, in place of offering the korbonos, is a chiyuv d’oraisa. 

Even for those who don’t agree with this approach, there’s no one that can argue it’s definitely the right thing to do, to get to shul early and take one’s time to recite it.

May we be zoche to a longer shacharis that enables us to reach the highest levels of kedusha, one founded on the korbonos.