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Ki Tissa Dvar Torah 

10/03/2023 09:14:12 AM


When Moses descends the mountain a second time with a new set of Ten Commandments, the Torah states that Moses was not aware that his face had become "Karan Ohr - radiant (literally, a ray of light)." The Hebrew for "Karan" in other contexts means a "horn." Famously, Michelangelo depicted Moses in this Biblical scene as having horns emanating from his head. While his was a mistranslation of the Torah text, it led to a wave of anti-Semitism where Jews were accused of having horns in their heads.

I experienced this phenomenon while attending U.S. Air Force chaplain school. In the Summer of 1984, being the only Jewish seminary student among a class of 59 students with 29 being Catholic and 29 being Protestant, a classmate honestly believed that I wore a Kippah in order to cover up the horns. I treated him with respect, had him feel around my head, explained to him the source of the stereotype and encouraged him to denounce this myth in his ministry.

While none of us will reach the radiance in which Moses experienced God's revelation, we can aspire to our own attainable level of radiance. How? Ultimately, the second set of Ten Commandments, a symbol of the entire Torah, comes to defeat and eradicate the idolatry of the golden calf. Our commitment to a Torah lifestyle is our means of attaining radiance with God. Secondly, we can imitate the modesty of Moses. We read that when Moses faced the people, he covered his radiance with a veil. Many commentaries explain the veil as a sign of Moses' modesty in that he did not boast of the direct experience he had with God. Similarly, at a wedding, the bride wears a veil, a symbol of her own modesty before the groom and others present. 

Our radiance, therefore, comes through learning and living according to Torah precepts and conducting ourselves with a humble lifestyle.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Howard Morrison

Wed, 7 June 2023 18 Sivan 5783