Parshat Ki Tissa
2005A few weeks ago I visited a friend for Shabbat and he warmly welcomed me into his home. When I arrived late Friday afternoon, I could already smell the chicken cooking and the aroma smelled of a strong nutmeg. He looked at me, proud of the Shabbat meal that he had prepared, and then laid out a disclaimer: "I read the recipe for the squash dish and even though it called for one-fourth of a teaspoon of nutmeg, well, I accidentally (gulp) put in one-fourth cup." One-fourth of a cup? I thought he was going to say he accidentally put in one-fourth of a tablespoon. Oy, that was a bit different.
We've all had our share of recipe disasters as well as successes. Sometimes these are recipes for our favorite dish. Other times, they are recipes for a meeting, for a relationship, for our Hillel.
This week's parsha, Ki Tissa, is full of recipe images, but primarily, I'd like to focus on the recipes for the golden calf and for the annointing oil that was used to make the sanctuary holy. What we notice here is striking. When the Israelites are waiting for Moshe to come down from Mount Sinai and they cannot wait any longer, "Aaron said to them, 'Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me" (Exodus 32: 2). It was from all of this precious jewelry that the idolatrous golden calf was soldered.
Earlier in the parsha, we see a different recipe. God asked Moshe to take choice spices, and God was very specific about the amount of each required: "five hundred weight of solidified myrrh, half as much-two hundred and fifty of fragrant cinnamon, two hundred and fifty of aromatic cane, five hundred - by sanctuary weight - of cassia, and a hin of olive oil" (Exodus 30:23-24). This recipe created an oil that was so holy that whoever touched it "shall but cut off from his kin" (Exodus 30:33).
Ingredients: Precious golden jewelry.
Bake at 725 for five minutes.
Yields: Idolatrous golden calf
Ingredients: Natural oils and spices.
Amount: Very specific.
Blended by experts.
Yields: Holy anointing oil.
The lesson to me is beautiful. Some of our most valuable material possessions can create in us idolatrous moments: when we'll do anything to get that flat screen television, iPod or new car. We arbitrarily bake these things together and before we know it, sometimes we lose sight of our even more valuable possessions.
When we open our eyes to the natural spices of our lives: the friends, family, colleagues, health and security, we find that the right measurements of these ingredients truly flavor us with the holiest moments and delights.
Prepared by Jen Schlosberg, Jewish Campus Service Corps program associate.
Additional commentaries and text studies on Parshat Ki Tissa at MyJewishLearning.com.