God instructs Moshe to take a census. Instead of counting people, each man over 20 gave a half shekel coin towards the construction of the Mishkan (Tabernacle); the census figure was calculated based on the money collected. God instructed Moshe to make a copper washing basin (kiyor) for the Kohanim. Moshe was to make the anointing oil, containing select spices, to anoint Aharon, his sons, and the vessels of the Mishkan. God told Moshe to make incense (ketoret) from specific spices, to be offered twice daily. God designated Betzalel to supervise the construction of the Mishkan and told Moshe to again instruct the people about keeping Shabbat.

According to Rashi, the narrative moves back in time, to the aftermath of the giving of the Torah. Moshe has been on Mount Sinai for 40 days. The people calculated that Moshe was late returning. Fearing that he is dead, they decided to make a new ‘god’. They fashioned and worshipped a golden calf. God informed Moshe of events and threatened to wipe out the nation. Moshe pleaded with God to relent, recalling His promises to the forefathers. God accepted his pleas. Moshe descended the mountain. When he saw the calf, he threw down and broke the two stone Tablets of Testimony. Moshe burned the calf and instructed the tribe of Levi to kill the sinners. He re-ascended the mountain to ask God to forgive the nation. God responded that He will no longer lead the people through the desert, but will send an angel instead to lead them.

Not prepared to accept God’s response, Moshe appealed to God to directly ‘accompany’ the nation and requested that Israel retain a special status, distinct from other nations. God agreed to both requests.

Moshe asked God to show him a vision of His divine majesty. God responded that no mortal can see a ‘full view’ and live, but He showed Moshe a glimpse of His presence.

God instructed Moshe to carve a new set of Tablets, containing the same words as the first set. Moshe ascended Mount Sinai with the new Tablets, as commanded. God now appeared to Moshe and taught him the 13 Attributes of Mercy. Moshe appealed to God to bestow His full guidance and protection upon Israel.

God declared to Moshe that he is making a covenant with the people. After entering the Land of Israel, they must not follow the idolatrous ways of the Cana’anite nations. The mitzvah of coming to the Temple with an offering for the three festivals (Pesach, Shavuot and Succot) is restated, as well as the mitzvah to redeem a firstborn male child (pidyon ha’ben) and not to mix meat and milk.

Moshe descended with the new Tablets, his face radiating with light. He had to cover his face with a veil when speaking to the people.

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