January 17, 2019

Rosner’s Torah Talk: Parashat Ki Tisa with with Rabbi David Kosak

David Kosak of Congregation Neveh Shalom in Portland Oregon is a 30th generation rabbi, but his path to the rabbinate had its own plot twists. His first career as a chef and entrepreneur brought him out West from his native New York, where he had earned a BA in Philosophy from NYU.  His formal education includes an MA in Rabbinics from the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism).  David pursued advanced studies at Mechon Schechter, Hebrew University, Yakar Torah Center for Tradition and Creativity, and the Hartman Institute, all in Jerusalem.  He received his Rabbinic Ordination in 2006 from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Bel Air, California. His post-ordination studies include a stint as a STAR fellow and advanced courses on areas of Jewish law such as Gittin (Jewish divorce) and industrial kashrut.

This Week’s Torah Portion – Parashat Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) – begins with the census of the people of Israel and with further instructions concerning the Tabernacle and the Shabbat. The portion then proceeds to tell the story of the Golden Calf, Moses’ plea to god, the splitting of the Tablets into two, and the giving of the second tablets. Our discussion focuses, among other things, on the reason behind the people of Israel’s discontent and on the possible role of Moses’ leadership in their sin.


More Rosner Torah Talks on Ki Tisa:

Rabbi Rachel Ain

Rabbi Gabe Greenberg

Rabbi Gerald Skolnik

Rabbi Charles Arian




‘It Was Chaos’

David Kosak, a 35-year-old rabbinical student from the University of Judaism, was lunching with classmates at Hebrew University’s Frank Sinatra cafeteria on Wednesday when the bomber struck.

"All of a sudden there was a big explosion, lots of smoke, flaming objects flying in the air," the bearded, articulate American said two hours later from his trolley in Jerusalem’s Bikur Holim hospital. "It was chaos. I saw a lot of wounded people.

"I just wanted to get out. It was as if I got into battle mode. The adrenaline kicked in. I saw other people heading for the door. I did the same. There was a crazy moment where I wanted to go back for my bag, but then I just got out."

One month into a two-month summer Hebrew-language Ulpan, Kosak was one of the luckier ones. He was brought to the downtown hospital for observation after complaining of ringing in his ears and an aching head. He showed no sign of physical injuries, but worried what had happened to two friends who were unaccounted for.

Kosak estimated that there were about 200 people in the cafeteria at the time of the explosion. He didn’t see anything suspicious. As he told it, security on the Mt. Scopus campus was more impressive before the event than after.

All cars were checked entering the campus, he reported. Trunks had to be opened for inspection, though Kosak wondered why they didn’t check the tires for concealed explosives. At the entrance to the building, there were two guards. "One did a more thorough job than the other. They checked our bags, they didn’t check our persons. There was no guard on the cafeteria."

Despite his ordeal, Kosak is determined to complete the ulpan, and then stay in Jerusalem for a year’s course at the Conservative movement’s Shechter Institute. "I don’t regret coming to Israel," he said. "This is my country." His wife, Laura, who was on the campus but not in the cafeteria when the bomb went off, was equally defiant.

Kosak said that back in Los Angeles his parents and sister had tried to dissuade him from coming to Jerusalem. They feared for his safety. He confided, a touch ruefully, that he had felt safe inside the fortress-like university. He didn’t expect a bombing there.

He and his classmates hadn’t discussed the danger of being in Israel. "You live in denial," he explained. "You don’t think anything bad will happen to you." Would he feel comfortable in future walking around town or the university? "It’s impossible to say now. I won’t go tomorrow."