There is a lot going on in this week’s portion: A short census to track who is eligible for military service. Moses up on Mount Sinai getting the commandments (nbd!). The Golden Calf! Moses going back up Mount Sinai to get the commandments, again. That’s not even all of it. There is a lot going on.
There is one theme that weaves its way through parshat Ki Tisa - something that everyone can relate to: losing control. Almost everyone in this week’s portion loses their cool. The Israelites completely lose it, building a Golden Calf when they lose faith in Moses returning with God’s message. Aaron loses control over the Israelites in spite of his very important role as High Priest. In a fit of rage Moses smashes the first set of God’s commandments (and also orders the massacre of three thousand kinsmen who lost faith in God while he was away). Even God loses God’s cool, threatening to wipe out the Israelites because they have strayed and are a “stiff-necked people” and basically God is tired of it!
Have you ever lost your cool?! I know I have. It is comforting to know that our tradition shows us that even God can lose control. Even God needed help to calm down. It took Moses reminding God that the Israelites were not ALL bad, that they were simply scared, that they deserved another chance, to keep God from acting on God’s rage. What helps you calm down? What helps you regain your composure?
The lesson from this week’s portion isn’t never lose control. The lesson is knowing how to deal, who to call, what to do when we lose our tempers or lose ourselves in emotion - fear, anger, frustration. It happens to all of us. Knowing who I can count on to calm me down and straighten me out gets me through all my most challenging moments.