Parshat Ki Tisa: Divine Absence and Presence

Why does the name of God not appear throughout the Book of Esther – unlike all of the other 24 books of the Bible, which feature His name in almost every verse? Ki Tisa is the most theological portion of the Pentateuch.

It deals with one of the most profound issues facing our religion; what is the nature of God’s involvement with the world in general and with Israel in particular? This is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible, so how should we understand chapters 33 and 34 of the Book of Exodus – the central chapters of this week’s biblical portion? This is the conundrum which we will attempt to tackle.

The Israelites certainly felt God’s involvement and protection during the period of the plagues and the splitting of the Re(e)d Sea. They continued to sense God’s close connection when they stood at Mount Sinai and heard His commanding voice. But then, Moses absented himself and seemed to have absconded into splendid, supernal isolation with the Divine, leaving the nation bereft of both leadership and the divine presence.


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