The first paragraph of this week’s portion sets the stage for the rest of the portion. Everyone over twenty years old must give a half shekel to make atonement for their lives. (Ex. 30:15) The following verse further explains the purpose of the census tax:

“You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the L-RD, so as to make atonement for your lives.” Exodus 30:16

In addition, the tax would also deter a plague. (Ex. 30:12) Obedience to this one commandment would:

  1. Make atonement for you.
  2. Involve you in the service of the tent of meeting.
  3. Remind you of the L-RD your G-d.
  4. Repel a plague.

All of this for one of the most easy commandments! G-d’s graciousness is abundant. The additional commandments in this portion are very important as well and follow the same pattern. Here are the commandments and here are the consequences for disobedience. This is such an important message for our world today. We can all learn from the disobedience that led to the incident of the golden calf. In fact, we are commanded to remember the sin of the golden calf! (Deut. 9:7) At the end of this portion the Children of Israel experienced two tragic punishments for their disobedience: Death (Ex. 32:28) and a plague. (Ex. 32:35) Zechariah 14 warns of the day of the L-RD when those who disobey will be smitten with a plague and struck down.  May this be a reminder to us all that we serve THE Holy G-d who requires obedience to His Word.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2

The tablets on which the commandments were written demonstrate an individual and corporate function for obedience.

“Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand, tablets that were written on both sides; on the front and on the back they were written.” Exodus 32:15

Scripture emphasizes the writing was on the front and the back. If you picture an individual holding the tablets to read and study then having the writing on the back would also allow others to read and study at the same time. The commandments connect us with G-d individually and our obedience proclaims His Name corporately. His Word is meant for us AND those around us.

“..preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4:2

Our obedience associates us with His Word and His Name. As we read, study, and obey the Bible we should also reflect G-d’s light to those around us.

Finally, I take note whenever I encounter a word in Hebrew that is only used once in the Tanach. It is puzzling that certain words are only used once to convey something in which another word would have sufficed. I believe the words are deliberately different to express importance or uniqueness. The following verse contains an exclusive word.

“The tablets were the work of G-d, and the writing was the writing of G-d, engraved on the tablets.” Exodus 32:16

The word for “engraved” in Hebrew is charat. This is the first and only time in the whole Tanach where this word is used. It is no mistake that an exclusive word is used as a description for an exclusive occurrence. I cannot find anywhere else but this verse that describes “the writing of G-d.” Scripture does mention the tablets being written with the finger of G-d (Ex. 31:18) which is also fascinating. Although, the verse above stresses that the tablets were, not only divinely inspired, and divinely written, but also contained divine words. The very words are divine through and through. How much more then is the embodiment of those words Divine?

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

“He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of G-d.” Revelation 19:13