Weekly Torah Portion – Ki Tisa

Why Read the Torah

Finding Jesus in the Old Testament: A Weekly Reading from the Torah – Ki Tisa

Parashat Ki Tisa

  • Exodus 30:11 to 34:35
  • Prophetic Reading/Haftorah: 1 Kings 18:1–39
  • New Covenant Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:1–18, TLV


Census and Ransom Money

Then Adonai (the Lord) spoke to Moses saying, “When you tally the sum of Bnei-Yisrael by numbering them, then every man must pay a ransom for his soul to Adonai when you count them so that no plague will fall on them. Every one among them who crosses over must give half a shekel according to the Sanctuary shekel (which is 20 gerahs): half a shekel as an offering to Adonai (Exodus 30:11–13, TLV).

The name of this week’s Torah portion is Ki Tisa. It begins with God speaking to Moses about numbering the children of Israel by having them pay a half-shekel to the Lord for the work of the sanctuary. The Lord counts Israel not once but four times in the Torah. Why so many times? What is the deeper spiritual reason?

The children of Israel, B’nei Yisrael in Hebrew, were slaves for hundreds of years in Egypt. As slaves, their lives did not count for much. In general, slaves had no real personal value or worth. Counting them so often was meant to help heal and repair them both spiritually and emotionally, for it communicated a level of value and significance. You only frequently count what is truly precious and important to you.

Thus, the multiple counting of the children of Israel was an indication of how much the Lord cared for them. And what is most valuable to the Lord? It’s people and relationships. There was a renowned rabbi who’d spend the entire day greeting people who lined up every week in expectation to meet him and receive a blessing. He was once asked if he ever got tired of shaking so many hands, listening to countless needs, and offering blessings all day. He said, “Absolutely not! How can you get tired counting diamonds?” His response beautifully expressed the heart of our heavenly Abba for each of His children.

On the other hand, not being counted hurts. And I say this from personal experience. When Jews gather for prayer daily, there needs to be a minyan. A minyan in traditional Judaism consists of ten adult men who are thirteen years old and above. Without a minyan, certain prayers can’t be said, and certain aspects of the service, like the public reading of the weekly Torah portion from a Sefer Torah—handwritten Torah scroll—can’t be done. There have been several occasions when I was praying as part of a minyan and they would not count me because of my faith in Yeshua. One particular time a disagreement broke out between a congregant and a rabbi right in front of me! By not counting me, they were essentially saying that I didn’t count as a Jew. You see, it really hurts when people you care about and feel a part of rejecting you and say that you have no value to them. Every one of us has experienced moments like that when we were not picked for the team or were made to feel less than. It hurts and sometimes it can even scar us. But the Lord treats people differently.

Of course, there is more. To fully understand the deeper truth and beauty behind what the Lord had done by counting them so many times, it is necessary to understand Hebrew. Exodus 30:11 states, “When you take a census of the children of Israel…” (NHEB). But when translated, the Hebrew literally states, “When you raise/lift the heads of the children of Israel…” The counting was to be done by the lifting of each head of those counted.

This detail is very significant. The bending of one’s head and looking down is the posture of a slave in submission to their master. The lifting of their heads was meant to elevate and encourage each one of them. God wants His kids to live with their heads held high!

In fact, when the Lord brought the B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt, they left standing straight up with their heads held high. The children of Israel were not slaves or servants but sons and daughters; their posture was meant to reflect their new identity, and standing was the exact opposite of a slave. The lifting of their heads as part of the process of elevating Israel both emotionally and spiritually.

God wants all His kids to live with our heads held high. He is proud of you, and He wants you to be proud of who you are in Him through Yeshua, our Messiah. The same word for “lift up their heads” is also the same word for Yeshua being “lifted up” on the cross like the serpent in the wilderness. He was lifted up so that you might be lifted up with Him spiritually, emotionally, relationally, and even physically! In Messiah, you are a winner and not a reject or a loser! Do you often live life looking down on yourself? If so, it’s time to humbly lift your head and comprehend the great worth and value you have in God’s eyes. The Lord wants you to know Him as the “glory and the lifter” of your head (Psalm 3:4, TLV)!