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Parshat Ki Tissa, 5784 - The Golden Calf and the Pattern of Brokeness -

02/27/2024 01:16:07 PM


Rabbi Rudin

A disturbing pattern appears throughout the Torah narratives.


At first, everything seems pristine and pure.  G-d’s intention and plan moves forward to a stunning and holy conclusion- and then there’s a sudden dark turn that forces G-d’s hand as it were and a new, broken reality emerges.


The Creation of the World begins like a magnificent concert of growing richness and sophistication as light emerges from chaos, the seas and land form, stars shine, the sun rises and plants and animals spring forth.  Birds take flight and trees tower.  Humanity, crafted lovingly in G-d’s image, rises to become G-d’s partners in stewardship of the earth.  Shabbat, the crowning moment of creation, infuses the world with holiness and glory.


And then it all falls and collapses.  Out of the brokenness and rubble of human sin, a world of labor, trouble and strife comes into being amid the ruins with sparks of the divine still shining through like diamonds scattered in sand.


The same holds for the second attempt at creation after the Great Flood, the Mabul.  Noah and his family emerge into a world newly reborn. The Keshet, the Rainbow Covenant, rises to sanctify a new beginning.  And then, Noah’s drunkenness and the act of mutilation and betrayal by Noah’s son once again mars and distorts the world which collapses again into strife and discord with moments of lost harmony interspersed like a melody fading from memory.


In our Parsha, Ki Tissa, the Sinai Moment crowns the Exodus with apotheosis- Israel receives the Torah and the sin of Adam is finally erased.  The world is finally restored.


But then- The people saw that Moses delayed and they gathered against Aaron and said: Up!  Make us gods that will go before us, for the man Moses who took us out of Egypt is gone…and they set up the Golden Calf and worshiped it…  And when Moses saw the Calf and the Dancing and Worship, the Tablets fell from his hands and smashed at the foot of the mountain.


Talk about a stunning anticlimax.


Again, the world falls into darkness, the tablets are smashed, with only shards of light remaining.


But there is a difference this time. 


The sparks of light of the original Creation are enmeshed in the broken world.  The pure colors of the rainbow of the second Creation are turned against each other in the unending madness of human conflict.  And the shattered pieces of the Tablets of the Torah?  Are they also unfixable, irredeemable?


No.  Because each shard of Torah is capable of repairing all the rest.  Each Torah fragment is a Mitzvah: an act of love, compassion, Jewish connection and creation: create Shabbat, create a holy moment, create hospitality, create a visit to a sick friend, create a Tzedaka donation, create love, create peace. 


The Torah’s Mitzvot, when we enact them, can repair the brokenness of the world.  The lost lights of Creation can be regathered and restored- one Mitzvah, one action, one intention at a time. 


And that is the task of the Jewish people in as powerful, pure and compelling an image that there is- wholeness and healing begin with each of us and continue in the family, friendships, community and world that we raise up.  Let there be Light is not just a phrase in a scroll, it is a mission– our mission.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784