In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Siso, we find the tragic story of the “golden calf.” When Moshe Rabbeinu descended from Mount Sinai after 40 days and nights, he saw the great sin of his nation. His reaction was to break the two tablets of stone which were miraculously engraved by the Almighty Himself.
Subsequently, our “Faithful Shepherd” prayed and exerted himself greatly in order to attain G-d’s forgiveness for His nation. It was then that Hashem commanded Moshe to engrave a second set of tablets. He told Moshe (Shemos 34:10) “Carve out for yourself two stone tablets like the first ones. I will inscribe upon the tablets the words that were on the first tablets which you broke.” Rashi comments with an allegory. “This can be compared to a king who went abroad and left his betrothed with the maidservants. Because of the immoral behavior of the maidservants, she acquired a bad reputation. The person appointed to defend her should any problems arise, got up and tore her marriage contract. He said that if the king decides to kill her, I will tell him that she is not yet your wife. The king investigated and discovered that only the maidservants were guilty of immoral behavior. He was therefore appeased. The one responsible for her told the king to write her another marriage contract because the first one was torn up. The king responded that, ‘You tore it up. Buy another sheet of paper, and I will write it for her myself.’ Likewise, the king represents the Holy One blessed be He. The maidservants represent the mixed multitude. The one responsible for the bride is Moshe, and the betrothed of the Holy One blessed be He is the Jewish Nation. That is why Hashem told Moshe to carve it for himself.” With this allegory Rashi explains (among other things) why Moshe Rabbeinu broke the first set of tablets.
When the Torah tells us what actually took place, it says that when Moshe descended from Mount Sinai and saw what was happening (Shemos 32:19) “he became angry and threw the tablets from his hands, shattering them at the foot of the mountain.” There Rashi gives a different explanation. He writes that “Moshe said to himself, that regarding the Passover sacrifice which is only one of the commandments, the Torah said that ‘no estranged one may eat of it.’ The entire Torah is here; meaning that the Ten Commandments include all of the Torah. All of the Jews are idolaters. How can I give it to them?” We need to understand why Rashi gives two completely different explanations for what is apparently the same thing!
The Rebbe explains that there are two aspects of Moshe’s behavior which one could question. How could he break the tablets which were made by Hashem? Furthermore, he was commanded to give them to the Jews. How could he be derelict in fulfilling this command? Rashi’s explanation in our Torah portion answers the first question. He broke the tablets in order to help find an out, a basis for assuring that Hashem would forgive the Jews. Rashi’s earlier explanation teaches us why Moshe did not present the Jews with the tablets as he was commanded.
This should teach us the extent to which we must go to reach out to every Jew, even one who seems to be worshipping gold (i.e. money), and draw them closer to Hashem.
Wishing one and all a wonderful Shabbos!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn