The 7th aliyahLit. Ascending Being called up to recite the blessing before and after a Torah reading. Also, a term used upon moving to Israel (i.e., making aliyah)
of Parashat Ki Tissa (Exodus 34:27–35) contains a narrative of the aftermath of Moshe’s (Moses’) descent from Mt. SinaiAccording to the Torah, God, in the presence of the Jewish people, gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai (Har Sinai).
after receiving the 2nd set of tablets and his face being radiant/glowing (Hebrew: karan
). As a result, the people (including his brother AaronBrother of Moses, chosen as Moses' interlocutor. His Hebrew name is Aharon.
) are too intimidated to be in his presence. MosheThe quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe.
sees this and responds by putting on a mask/veil (Hebrew: masveh
) while in their presence, removing it only after he has distanced himself from the larger community.
Much of this narrative may resonate strongly with those who lived through COVID-19.
An aliyah represents closeness and connection to TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general.
, and this is a poetic way to recognize that in the face of all the distance, we are deeply connected to each other, to God, and to Torah. Just as the mask Moshe wears serves as a symbol of his divine service, so the masks that we have worn show our service and connection to both God and humanity.
Our proposal is that the 7th aliyah of Ki Tissa may be adopted as an annual way to properly and appropriately remember the immense journey of COVID-19 through which we emerged and one whose lessons should not be forgotten by future generations.
As the 7th aliyah highlights a narrative of MosesThe quintessential Jewish leader who spoke face to face with God, unlike any other prophet, and who freed the people from Egypt, led them through the desert for forty years, and received the Torah on Mt. Sinai. His Hebrew name is Moshe.
wearing a face-covering as a sign of care, empathy and humility, we propose that this aliyah be given to honor someone in the community who embodies these noble traits (care, empathy and humility).
The location of this aliyah on the calendar also prompts reflection on its themes. In non-leap years, Ki Tissa is always either ShabbatShabbat is the Sabbath day, the Day of Rest, and is observed from Friday night through Saturday night. Is set aside from the rest of the week both in honor of the fact that God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. On Shabbat, many Jews observe prohibitions from various activities designated as work. Shabbat is traditionally observed with festive meals, wine, challah, prayers, the reading and studying of Torah, conjugal relations, family time, and time with friends.
Parah or the Shabbat between Zachor and Parah. As such, in non-leap years this aliyah will always be read after Shabbat Zachor (which focuses on the importance of remembering the past and learning lessons for the future) and before the leyning
of Parah (which focuses on cleansing and redemption). We see connections to both themes in this aliyah and encourage further reflection/contemplation for those who wish to pursue deeper tie-ins to either or both. To be clear, we see the Masveh aliyah being appropriate in all years, regardless of whether or not it’s a non-leap year.