Parashat Ki Tisa 5776–Shabbat Torah Study– Incense and Inclusiveness

The centerpiece of this week’s Parasha is the difficult story of the golden calf. However, the Parasha also contains many other interesting subjects, including the mystifying list of ingredients for the incense to be burned in the Tabernacle before God would dwell in it.

Stacte, onycha and galbanum and other herbs were mixed with pure frankincense (Exodus 30:34) to make the most wonderful fragrance of the incense burned in the holy of holies—the Ketoret (that we refer to at the end of the Ein Keloheynu Piyyut).

Each of the ingredients independently has a unique and beautiful fragrance except one—the galbanum. Galbanum is reputed to have a foul and disgusting odor. Why would God include something disagreeable in the mix?

Our Sages relate a beautiful lesson from this.

Each of the ingredients in the Ketoret represents a different type of person. Each type of person is holy and precious – or has the potential to be.

A person perceived of as disgusting may have something beautiful to offer and it is our job to find that beauty. In other words, there is really no such thing as disgusting.

Everything and everyone has a purpose. A recipe is not complete and the outcome will not be the same if any ingredient is missing. As a community, it is incumbent on each of us to reach out and be inclusive. Diversity is an important value in our faith. We are better in every way when we are fully inclusive of everyone in the community because each person has something to contribute and each person is a special and unique ingredient in God’s holy recipe of humanity.

This Shabbat we will learn with Ruth Bergman about the shekel based census taking described in this week’s Parasha and there are some fascinating issues. 9:45 a.m. in the Shiffman Chapel. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.

Shabbat Shalom,


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