Ki Tissa 30:11-34:35
Lately, I have been attending church. Perhaps that sounds odd for a rabbi to write. Yet one of my goals for my current three-month sabbatical is to attend as many services as possible, and while my initial aim was to attend varying synagogue worship services, I decided that I could learn and be inspired from being at church as well.
And in many ways, I have — from their welcoming nature, to the types of prayer music, even to the service handouts.
At church, one of the phrases that clergy and lay leaders use during worship is “lift [someone] up.” As in, “Let us lift up Caroline in our prayers as she prepares for her next chemotherapy treatment.”
That phrase began to resonate with me even before this week when we began Ki Tissa. This is the usual translation of the first verses, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: When you take a census of the Israelite people according to their enrollment.” Actually, the literal Hebrew translation does not read, “take a census” but rather “lift up the heads.”
It seems to me that there is a big difference between the two translations.
When we pause to think about it, we want the people standing before us to experience uplift — regardless of the reason that they stand before us. If we are to be holy like God and follow God’s lead, then we need to spend some time lifting others up, just as God does in the prayer Gevurot, “[God] lifts the fallen.” Whether through an authentic, kind word or your focused attention; whether through helping someone else directly or praying on their behalf; whether through advocacy or coaching, each of us has it within ourselves to lift another person up — daily.
If we, made in God’s image, help others to lift their faces, in turn, God will do the same for us as it says in the priestly benediction, “May God lift God’s face to you and grant you shalom.” Uplifted faces bring peace and wholeness, not only to us, but also to God.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)