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March 08, 2012 - Image 101

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-03-08

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s irituality >> Torah portion

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Parshat Ki Tissa: Exodus 30:11-34:35;
1 Kings 18:1-18:39.


od informs Moses that the
over. When Moses descends Mount
Jewish people have created
Sinai with the stone tablets in his
the Golden Calf in Exodus
hands, he is confronted with the actual
32:7 where it says, "The Lord spoke to
scene of the festivities and rejoicing
Moses, 'Hurry down, for your people,
around the Golden Calf. He hurls the
whom you brought out of the land of
tablets, smashing them at the foot of
Egypt have acted basely:"
the mountain. While the
While God will continue to
text seems to imply that
describe the great breach that
Moses breaks the tablets in
has now opened up between
anger, there are other pos-
God and the Jewish people,
it is important to notice the
One midrash teaches that
way God addresses Moses
when Moses saw the scene
at this critical time. It is as if
before him, the letters on the
God relinquishes His connec-
tablets flew back to heaven,
tion with the people in this
leaving Moses holding not
verse. The Jewish people are
God's tablets (presumably
not God's people, but Moses'
Rabbi Steven
lightened by their holy ori-
people; the people that Moses
gins), but two very heavy
Rube nstein
brought out of Egypt.
stones. Moses could no lon-
It is a bit akin to one parent saying to
ger hold them and they fell to the ground.
the other, "Wait until you hear what your
If we consider Moses' role as
daughter did today!" Isn't the young girl
defender of the people, another pos-
the child of both parents? In the case of
sibility emerges. The tablets that Moses
the Torah, Israel is God's people. God is
holds contain the rules of the covenant,
the one who brought us out of Egypt.
in essence the contract between the
In putting the responsibility on Moses,
Jewish people and God. The scene
God makes Moses into the defender of
before him clearly shows that the
the people. God is about to punish the
people would be guilty under the terms
people, Moses' people. Moses is forced to
of this contract. Hoping for a reprieve,
defend the people before God.
Moses gets rid of the document that
Rashi highlights this dynamic just a
would show the people to stand guilty
few verses later when the Torah relates
before God. He smashes the tablets.
that God says to Moses, "Now, let Me
God has foisted the role of defender
be, that My anger may blaze forth
upon Moses, and Moses has lived up to
against them ..."
that role completely. The Jewish people
Rashi points out that the phrase "let Me will live for another day — a day on
be" implies Moses has made a request or
which God can give us another chance
has tried to stop God's punishment. The
and another set of tablets represent-
Torah doesn't mention this, however, lead- ing the covenant between God and the
ing Rashi to say God uses this language to Jewish people.
provide an opening for Moses; hinting to
him if Moses were to defend the people,
Steven Rubenstein is the rabbi of
God would restrain His anger.
Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield.
Moses takes the bait — in a very
positive way. Moses' role as prophet
extends to the role of representative
• Why do you think God wanted
and defender of the people before God.
Moses to defend the people?
Moses' impassioned plea results in the
• Why not simply skip that step
remittance of immediate punishment
and forgive them?
and the destruction of the Jewish people.
• When was the last time you
Interestingly, when God's anger is
gave someone a second chance?
assuaged, Moses' anger seems to take

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