Ki Tisa, the Torah portion we read this Shabbat contains one of the most dramatic events in all of Biblical narrative: the incident of the Golden Calf. Moses has been on Mount Sinai for a long time, far too long for one human group to who still carries Egypt engraved on their skin, in their hearts and souls, manages to sustain their faith in an invisible God without the corporeal presence of their leader. So in despair they convince Aaron to build them a golden calf. No wonder people didn't understand what was going on with their leader up there on the mountain. God's nature makes it difficult to feel his presence in times of anxiety and despair. The Golden Calf was perhaps nothing more than a request for concrete evidence of the existence of the intangible and immeasurable caused by the insecurity of a people who felt abandoned and alone.
The story confronts us with the anger of God and of Moses. The leader of the People can calm the wrath of God, but when he himself descends from the heights of Mount Sinai and sees with his own eyes that his people are dancing out of control around this idol, he could not bear the images he sees. and throws away the tables written by the Lord's finger.
You may have wondered: how can they, after standing at the foot of Mount Sinai and witnessing firsthand the thunder and lightning that indicated the Divine presence? Why did they get sidetracked so easily? What confused them and prevented them from trusting what they had just experienced? Why did they so quickly betray what they should have embraced?
Perhaps he, Moses, asked himself again about his own conditions to lead... to sustain, to provide security even when he was physically absent. Was he angry with himself because he had lost his composure? How could he have smashed the tablets? After all, he did know that they were touched by God's own hand!
The Israelites find themselves without a leader, or at least a leader they can see or feel. It is certainly important to have faith in those we consider or choose as our leaders. Lack of faith can demoralize any group, country, or organization. We want and believe in a leader in whom we can place our trust and whose convictions can be clearly seen with absolute transparency. We trust leaders to guide us with their vision, to give direction to each of our journeys and our purposes. Trust leads to security, something the exiles desperately needed after suffering Egyptian slavery.
Moses goes back up the mountain a second time and then a third time and comes down the mountain again with a second set of stone tablets, this time written with knowledge of human weakness and confidence in the divine forgiveness.
According to the biblical story, the first tables were created only by God, but these second ones were the work of Moses and God together. The first ones were perfect; this new ones reflected the reality of human frailty, disappointment over broken promises and tarnished hopes. According to tradition, Moses came down from the mountain for the last time forty days after the first day of the month Elul. That day was the first Yom Kippur.
Our ancestors took these stone tablets, the second ones, along with the broken fragments that remained from the first, and placed them in the Holy Ark to carry on their journey.
We are still taking both the second tablets and the fragments of the first with us on our journey. The hope of wholeness and the possibility of brokenness exist together in each of us. Nobody is perfect. Each one struggles with limitations and weaknesses; each of us has broken promises and betrayed what we love at some point in our lives.
Many leaders have done so in an even more accentuated way. And they continue to do it or try to do it in our times. We spent a time of complicated leadership. We see in leaders around the world the lack of values, especially that of freedom and the acceptance of others, but above all, the lack of respect for diversity of thought. We are dangerously close to dictatorships of all kinds. Political dictatorships and their own choice. And none of them lead to a good path. And none of them lead to a good path.
The saddest thing is to see it in countries like ours where those values were paramount, or in Eretz Israel, where plurality was evident from the outset and where the effort for an inclusive democracy was from the first day of Independence. and even before that.
Let us pray that sanity and the good choice of the peoples do not allow it.
Rabbi Gustavo Geier