March 5, 2021
ADAR 21, 5781
Candlelighting Time 5:38 PM

            When Moshe returned from Mt. Sinai with the two tablets and saw that the nation was dancing around the Golden Calf, he threw them down reasoning that before they accepted the tablets it would be a mitigating factor in their favor. Once Moshe ‘appeased’ Hashem he was commanded to fashion two new tablets and Hashem would again inscribe upon them the Ten Commandments. Rashi analogizes this to a king who left his kingdom for a short while and upon returning was informed that his fiancée had acted inappropriately. The good friend of the bride ripped up the nuptial agreement attempting the protect the bride-to-be from any impending punishment. After an investigation it was discovered that the bride had not acted disgracefully only the maidservants. The marriage was on again, but the king requested from the friend who had destroyed the marriage agreement to replace it since he destroyed the original. So was it with Hashem and the people, Moshe had destroyed the two tablets therefore he had to replace, at least, the tablets, and Hashem would rewrite them.

            The most obvious discrepancy between the analogy and the real event is that some of the nation did actually participate in the disgraceful act of the Golden Calf. But perhaps the bigger incongruity is the dissimilarity between the paper of the nuptial contract and the tablets upon which the Commandments were inscribed. One is simply a piece of paper while the other was of higher spiritual content.

            Malbim and Netziv write a great length illustrating the dissimilarity between the first and second sets of tablets. The tablets depict the hearts, the essence of each and every member of the nation. Initially, the level of the nation was such that the tablets were ‘heavenly’ as was the core of the entire nation. However, we squandered that opportunity when we ‘idolized’ the Golden Calf. It compromised our status and removed the divine nature of our very being. Therefore, Moshe had to supply the tablets, a sign that we had descended to a more earthy and physical mode, having lost our crowns of majesty that we had gained at Mt. Sinai only days before!

            Certainly, the comparison between the tablets and the paper of the nuptial agreement is imprecise, but the theme of the two engender a direct and powerful message. Marriage, the ultimate bond between two people, serves to indicate a level of intimacy and fusion creating cohesion and unanimity. Although, seemingly, the extreme distinction that was present at Mt. Sinai could not be duplicated, nonetheless, Hashem, in His great mercy, accepted us again with the initial ‘excitement’ and ‘encouragement’ exhibited by the request that Moshe supply the tablets so that the Commandments which merge us with Hashem could be ‘reconstructed’.

            The upshot of this episode is perhaps to realize to what extent we had elevated ourselves at Mt. Sinai despite the fact that we lapsed, still perception of our capacity should be an ongoing catalyst to goad us on to forever search and exceed our goals.


The Midrash states that those who answered Moshe’s battle cry, the tribe of Levi, did not participate at all in the Golden Calf. And so is the nature of one who is dedicated to serve Hashem, he is unaware of any compromise.                                                                                                                CHOFETZ CHAIM