The Masveh Aliyah: Honor Someone Who Cares

The Masveh Aliyah: Honor Someone Who Cares

The 7th Aliyah of Parshat Ki Tissa showcases a short narrative where Moses (in an act of empathy and care) puts on a face-covering before coming into close contact with the larger community. Sound familiar?

Jewish rituals serve many functions. Many offer reminders to lessons of our past. Others seek to honor the present or offer hope for the future.

Where were you on March 14, 2020?

Most of us know we were on the Shabbat of March 14, 2020. Unless we were essential workers, we were likely at home as virtually every Synagogue around the world was closed due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. In fact, by late April it was reported that we had reached a point that, for the first time in America’s near-250 year history, not a single synagogue in the country was open.

On that first Sabbath of March 14 2020, the Torah portion was Ki Tissa. Read annually in either February or March.

It is not a stretch to say that it is one of the busiest and most dramatic portions of the year. We have the laws of the Half-Shekel; the building of the laver; instruction on incense; the appointment of Bezalel; yet another reminder of the importance of the Sabbath…and that’s just the 1st Aliyah!

Over the next 5 Aliyot, we have the narrative of the Golden Calf and its aftermath, along with the construction of the new tablets and a reprise of the laws of the Festivals.

Much of this is familiar and, in fact, several of these verses over the first 6 Aliyot of Ki Tissa are read at other times during the year including Fast Days, Holidays, and Special Sabbaths.

A Serendipitous Aliyah

But what touched us a few years back was that 7th Aliyah. The timing might have been coincidental but its impact was undeniable.

The two of us, a Rabbi and a layperson, reached out to each other and through both study and brainstorming emerged with the idea to mark Shabbat Ki Tissa annually by giving a special Kavod to someone with 7th Aliyah: the Masveh Aliyah.

In laying out our concept on Ritualwell, we noted the following:

“An Aliyah represents closeness and connection to Torah, 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…

As the 7th aliyah highlights a narrative of Moses 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).”

Why It Matters

Three years since the onset of the pandemic, much has changed in the world. But our ability to feel gratitude has not – it has been enhanced as we have become even more aware of what is at stake.

This year (2023) Parshat Ki Tissa will be read on Saturday, March 11. It’s a wonderful opportunity to honor someone in your community who embodies the values of care, empathy and humility, all the while acknowledging the past while looking forward to a hopefully better future.

We realize not every community will have the bandwidth to plan for this over the next few weeks, but we encourage you to at least think about it and bookmark March 2, 2024 when Ki Tissa once again be read.


  • Rabbi Eric Woodward is the rabbi of Congregation Beth El - Keser Israel in New Haven, CT. A native of Los Angeles, he studied at Williams College, Yeshivat Hadar, and the Jewish Theological Seminary, from which he received ordination in 2013. He was formerly assistant rabbi at Congregation Tifereth Israel of Columbus, Ohio.

  • A lifelong Conservative/Masorti Jew, Efrem is a NYC resident who loves studying Jewish Texts and Liturgy. In 12th Grade, he placed 17th globally in the Chidon HaTanach Olami (International Bible Contest). He is the founder of S’fatai Tiftach, a FB discussion forum for Baalei Tefillah and also sits on the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Faith Communities Task Force. By day, he is the VP of Communications of Thruways, a SaaS startup in the business insights space and, in his free time he enjoys playing guitar, singing Tenor in his local choir and cheering on The Philadelphia Phillies.

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