“This they shall give . . . half a shekel (30:13) The mitzvah of the half-shekel is that each should contribute a coin that [is valued at] half of the dominant coin of that time. If the prevailing coin is a takal, they should give a half-takal; if it is a sela, they should give a half-sela; if it is a darcon, they should give a half-darcon. (Midrash HaGadol)
Why not a complete coin? To teach us that no man is a complete entity unto himself. Only by joining with another can a person become a “whole thing.” (The Chassidic Masters)”
“Parshat Ki Tissa or parts of it are read no less than nine times during the year. In addition to its place in the yearly cycle, we read parts of Ki Tissa on five fast days and on two Shabbatot of festivals (Pesach and Sukkot). The beginning of the portion is also read on Shabbat Shekalim.
The dramatic center of the portion is the story of the sin of the Golden Calf that takes place when Moses is on Mount Sinai with God. The dialogues between Moses and God at this moment become the basis of our Torah reading for fast days.”
“At this point in Exodus, in Parashat Ki Tisa, the Israelites have seen a lot of action: the great drama of the plagues, the earth-shattering Exodus itself, and the transcendent moment of Revelation at Sinai. But now, it is as if the rushing scenes have been paused in favor of, well, waiting. The Israelites are somewhere in the desert, they have had these communal, transcendent experiences, and now, … now they are killing time until Moses returns to them.”
“The great drama of our Torah revolves around the themes of sin and forgiveness – human error and Divine forbearance. The great teaching of our scripture is that forgiveness is available to those who seek it. The great hope of our tradition is that we all avail ourselves of this gift and turn in repentance from our errors and mistakes to live fuller lives. The great dream of our people is that we can use this insight to strengthen the spiritual bonds that unite us with each other and with our God.”
“Shabbat Parah is the third of four special Shabbatot which precede Pesah. Its was intended as a reminder for people to purify themselves before Pesah so that they would be ritually pure in order to partake of the Pesah offering. The accompanying haftarah from the prophet Ezekiel takes the theme of purity and transforms it conceptually from being a physical condition into a spiritual condition. Sin and disloyalty to God make the people impure and worthy of exile. For Ezekiel, this explains the exile of the children of Israel following the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians.”