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Drash on Parashat Ki Tisa 2024

Rabbi Adi Cohen

Temple Shalom Gold Coast

Exodus 32:1: When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who shall go before us, for that fellow Moses-the envoy who brought us from the land of Egypt – we do not know what has happened to him.”
One of the frequent requests I often get as a rabbi is “Can you keep it short?” My answer is usually “No. However, you are welcome to leave when you need to.”

The Israelites are impatient. Moses is taking his time and they need something or someone to worship in the desert. After all, 40 days is a long time.

According to Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), conducted by the Treetop Foundation, the average attention span of an adult today is 8.25 seconds and can last between two seconds to about 20 minutes. That is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish, which is nine seconds.

The Israeli Jewish scholar, Professor Rachel Elior, describes Judaism as a thousands of years old community of collective memory, which weaves together the unchangeable foundations from the past with the ever-changing foundations of the present; a culture built over time. Judaism sanctifies time, evolves in time and operates with a positive eternity in view.

As we live in a world of social media and instant gratification, it is becoming increasingly challenging to allocate time for spiritual growth, study and prayer: La’asot Eitim LaTorah – to allocate time to engage with Parashat HaShavua and the Talmud Daf Yomi. And yet, this Jewish discipline of studying over a long period of time, reminds us that long-term plans, a strategic plan or a personal development plan takes time and effort. Sometimes it feels as if we are walking in the desert or experiencing the discomfort of a transitional time at the foot of the mountain, and yet, they are worth it.

Diving into each topic in our Parasha will take time, a long time. Each topic is relevant to our lives today:

·      Moses takes a census of the Israelites – who do we count in and who do we not?
·      Bezalel and Oholiab, are assigned to create the holy artefacts for the tent of meeting – where do we encounter Gods presence nowadays?.
·      The Israelites are instructed to keep Shabbat as a sign of their covenant with God. – how do we commit ourselves to a covenant with God as modern people?
·      God gives Moses the first set of tablets – how do we find the courage to stand up for what is right?
·      The Israelites ask Aaron to build them a Golden Calf – what are we running to during transitional times? Is it in our best interest ?
·      Moses implores God not to destroy the people and then breaks the tablets. When is it the right time to challenge authority ?
·      Moses returns to the mountain with a blank set of tablets for another 40 days and nights. – when do we insist on due process?
·      The laws of the observance of the Pilgrimage Festivals, are given – do we set times to celebrate our professional or spiritual achievements? Do we share our blessings with others?
·      Moses comes down from the mountain with a radiant face – where do we place our Jewish experience between preforming a ritual and being swept away by a spiritual moment?

In his book “in praise of slowness”, Carl Honore writes: “When we rush, we skim the surface, and fail to make real connections with the world or other people. The central tenet of the Slow Philosophy is taking the time to do things properly, and thereby enjoy them more.”

May we choose to slow down, to pray intentionally (kavanah), love deeply, and be present in our interactions.

2.   רחל אליאור, איזו דת היא היהדות, חלק א׳, ׳אודיסיאה׳ 28 יולי 2015.
3.   THE TORAH: A modern commentary, Revised edition.
5.   Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed

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