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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ki Tisa

A SMASHING GOOD MOVE

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We all know the story of the school-child who was caught taking the pencil of another child. The principal called him into his office and scolded him: "Don’t you know what a serious sin it is to steal?! Why, you even broke one of the 10 Commandments!" The boy looked back at the principal and said, "Well, how bad could that be?! Moshe broke all ten Commandments, and we still think he’s great!"

Moshe, did, indeed, break the Luchot in our Sedra, in response to the people’s sin of the Egel HaZahav, the Golden Calf they fashioned and worshipped when Moshe delayed returning from Har Sinai with the Torah. Now, most readers look at Moshe’s act and assign it to his elevated sense of anger. But Moshe was not, typically, an angry person. He did definitely have a strong sense of righteous indignation; whenever he saw injustice (such as when he caught the Egyptian beating a Hebrew; and at the well when the shepherds mistreated Zipora, etc). He also reacted strenuously when his people misbehaved, such as at Mei M’riva. And so he would have certainly been
justified reacting viscerally when he saw Bnei Yisrael acting in a wild, (semi) idolatrous fashion with the Egel.

But Rashi – in a statement at the end of Devarim – has a whole different spin on this episode.

Rashi says that Moshe – our supreme leader and expert defense attorney - broke the Luchot in an act of defending the Jewish People. You see, idolatry’s "sister sin" among the 10 Commandments is adultery. Cheating on Hashem - by worshipping another "god" - is akin to cheating on your spouse, and vice-versa. Both demonstrate infidelity.

And so Moshe ingenuously took the Luchot – which Chazal refer to as the "Ketuba" which validates our "marriage" to Hashem - and he shattered it. The effect of this, symbolically, was that we were now "single" again, and
so could not be guilty of committing the sin of adultery! Bad judgment, yes, boorish behavior, certainly, but not the capital crime of adultery and wholesale rejection of Hashem.

Perhaps this is why the Torah mysteriously says that this act took place, "tachat ha-har," under the mountain. You see, Har Sinai was not just the place where Matan Torah took place; symbolically, it was the "Chupa" under which we stood when this union between Man and G-d occurred. So it was therefore the most fitting place at which to dissolve the union – albeit temporarily – for the much greater good of saving the nation for posterity.

As always, it was Moshe, our hero, to the rescue.



Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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