A new Pharaoh fears the growing number of Israelites and enslaves them. He orders their newborn sons slain. Moses, cast adrift in the Nile, is rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter and grows up in the royal court. After slaying an Egyptian taskmaster, he flees to Midian and marries there. At a burning bush, Moses encounters God, who sends him back to Egypt to free the Israelites-only to anger Pharaoh, who increases the slaves’ burden.
God again charges Moses to confront Pharaoh and say: “Let my people go.” Aaron becomes the spokesman for a hesitant Moses. He performs a wonder before Pharaoh, but to no avail. Following God’s instructions, Moses calls down seven plagues, increasing in intensity, upon the Egyptians. Pharaoh will not yield.
Three more plagues occur: the last and most dramatic is the slaying of the Egyptians firstborn, which leads to the Exodus. The Israelites dab the blood of the paschal lamb on their doorposts to avert death in their midst. Come midnight, God strikes the Egyptians; they are quick to let the Israelites go. After four hundred thirty years in Egypt, the Israelites depart that very night.
Pharaoh regrets losing his slaves. Pursuing the children of Israel, he traps them at the Sea of Reeds. God splits the waters, allowing Israel to cross safely. The Egyptians follow-only to be engulfed, at God’s hand, in the swirl of returning water. Moses and Miriam lead the people in joyous song, extolling God. Yet the Israelites soon complain of thirst and hunger. God responds, providing water and manna. When Amalek attacks, God helps Israel prevail.
Moses spends much of his time explaining God’s statutes and laws to the people; his father-in-law, Jethro, suggests that he delegate some of this judicial authority. After ascending Mount Sinai to speak with God, Moses returns to prepare the people for Revelation. Amidst awesome thunder, lightning, and flame, God, glorious and holy, reveals the Divine Presence-and the Ten Commandments-to Israel.
The civil laws, along with moral and religious precepts, are presented after the Ten Commandments. The people accept the Torah wholeheartedly: “All that Adonai has commanded we will do.” Israel affirms the covenant, and Moses returns to Mount Sinai to receive the law, etched in stone, from God.
While Moses remains on Mount Sinai, God provides detailed instructions regarding the construction and decoration of the Mishkann. This Tabernacle is to house the Ark and allow the Divine Presence to dwell among the people of Israel.
God commands that a lamp, filled with oil, burn all night in the Mishkan, that priests serving therein wear holy garments, and that the High Priest wear a breastplate with twelve precious stones, one for each tribe. God provides direction for the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests, and prescribes their duties.
Parashat Ki Tissa
God names Bezalel as chief artisan, to oversee the crafting of the Mishkan’s appointments. God then presents Moses with two stone tablets, God’s words etched upon them. In Moses’ absence, however, the people have made a golden calf as a god. God sends Moses down; Moses sees the calf, and, in anger, shatters the tablets. God punishes the Israelites, whereupon Moses intercedes on their behalf. He then returns to Mount Sinai to receive a new set of tablets.
The Israelites enthusiastically contribute precious materials for the Mishkan, until Bezalel finds there is more than enough to complete the work. Moses halts the donations. Bezalel crafts the Ark and other sacred furnishings of the Mishkan.
The children of Israel bring the completed parts of the Mishkan to Moses, who confirms that the work has been done as God commanded. Moses blesses the people. God now commands Moses to erect the Mishkan and to anoint the priests. God’s glory then fills the Mishkan.