Parashat Ki Tissa

Idolatry Everywhere

What objects and ideas do we treat as idols?

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What Do We Worship?

This year as we read Parashat Ki Tissa, we are called to examine our lives and ask ourselves what objects and ideas we treat as idols that keep us away from justice, as opposed to symbols that lead us toward it. Beatrice, my Bat Mitzvah student, taught me how easy it is slip into idol worship even of the Torah itself.

Moses treated the tablets of the Torah like idols when he smashed them because he felt the people did not deserve them. I treated the Torah scroll like an idol when I was overly careful of the scroll itself and carelessly hurt the feelings of a child. We treat the Torah scroll as an idol in our congregations when we parade it gloriously through our synagogues on Shabbat, but don't internalize and put into practice its teachings of justice.

Does your synagogue contribute as much money to social justice efforts as it does to maintaining the beauty of its building? If not, you may want to ask yourself what values the symbols in your sanctuary represent--are those values as evident and embedded in your community as the physical structure that houses your congregation?

Do fixed ideas about your own capacity keep you from organizing for justice and advocating for change? When we say we don't have time to work for change, we are treating our schedules as an idol-- fixed, immutable, and all powerful.

This week, as we read Parashat Ki Tissa, may we refuse to worship the golden calves in our own lives and in the lives of our communities. May we remember that gold does not equal holiness and that the presence of a Torah scroll does not equal the presence of Torah. Torah is made real only through acts of justice and tireless compassion.

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Rabbi Elliot R. Kukla

Rabbi Elliot Kukla is a rabbi at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center in San Francisco.