The portion of Ki Tissa begins with a strange set of verses that appear to describe a process by which Moses could count the Jewish nation. The wording used is extremely ambiguous, and if you turn to Rashi for help you will come away more confused, not less.
What is going on in these verses? Did God command Moses to take a population census, or was this something Moses wanted to do himself? Why does Rashi cite King David’s experience as a cautionary tale of what can happen when things go wrong? Why was there a need to use half-shekel coins? Is there anything wrong with doing a population census, and if so, why?
Rabbi Dunner addresses all of these questions, and more, using his unique blend of classical sources and a close analysis of the text itself, presenting a vivid and revealing understanding of this unusual topic.
Image: A half-shekel coin from the Second Temple period