Lost; The Way Back Home

Adar (1) 17, 5782
February 18, 2022
Candlelighting Time 5:21 PM

            Undoubtedly, the Golden Calf debacle was the most ignominious incident in our history. As Rashi points out, all of the punishments that we endured throughout the generation were rooted in this episode. Hashem ‘wanted’ to eliminate the entire nation and Moshe beseeched Him and we were not destroyed. However, in Moshe’s prayer to Hashem we find that there were two parts. Initially, when Moshe was informed that Hashem ‘intended’ to terminate them, Moshe invoked that it would be a terrible desecration of Hashem’s Name when the world sees that we are annihilated. Furthermore, Moshe begged for mercy in the merit of their Forefathers. At that time, the Torah says that Hashem accepted Moshe’s entreaties and did not carry forth that strict punishment. After He descended from Mt. Sinai and summarily dealt with the sinners, then Moshe told the rest of the nation that he will return to Hashem and attempt to remove this blemish from their midst. Since when initially Hashem ‘changed’ His mind and didn’t destroy the nation, doesn’t that mean that He forgave them?

            Furthermore, when complete forgiveness is accomplished Hashem does not want to accompany the nation rather an angel will lead them. The concern is that perhaps they will anger Hashem again and the result will be devastating. After all the sinners have eliminated, Moshe senses that it is appropriate to ask Hashem for a special gift. He asks that since he has found favor in Hashem’s eyes, what is the reward for that status? Hashem answers that he is ‘reversing’ His decision and He will accompany the nation. Moshe responds that if Hashem will not be with them, then He will not travel further with the nation. Why was there a need to hammer in the new decision after Hashem specifically guaranteed that He will be there with them?

            K’sav V’Kabalah cites the Vilna Gaon that Hashem told Moshe that when they enter into Israel then Hashem will be there to assist them in their battles. However, in the desert, only an angel will guide them and be with them. Moshe responded that it is not worth going to Israel if they will not have the Divine Presence with them in the desert. In other words, Moshe was willing to forfeit the merit of living in Israel despite that there are many mitzvos that can only be accomplished there if they will not be intimately connected to Hashem presently in the desert!

            Although the nation would have gained tremendously from Hashem’s divine intervention in their battles against the Canaanites, however, that could not replace the imminence that they merited with Hashem’s presence in the desert. Even though Hashem’s presence would be extant in the Mishkan, nonetheless, we must assume that the intensity and the extension of Hashem’s presence outside the parameters of the Mishkan would have been mitigated. Therefore, Moshe was unwilling to accept that agreement.

            Perhaps we may suggest that even though Moshe davened and averted the decree of devastation that was hanging over their heads, still they had not yet sufficiently recovered from the damage that the Golden Calf had wreaked upon the nation. When they ‘substituted’ the figurine for Hashem, they severely reduced their resolute faith in Hashem. In order, to regain that lost connection, Moshe had to beseech Hashem to return them to their previous level of reliance and conviction in Hashem.   


When Moshe cried out by the Golden Calf fiasco that whoever is to Hashem should join me, all members of the tribe of Levi responded. The Midrash states that if one had donated anything for the sake of the Golden Calf, they could not join the battle cry. Only those that were pure and abstained from that temptation were allowed to join Moshe in his battle against the sinners.            CHOFETZ CHAIM

                                                      GOOD SHABBOS