This past week, we celebrated Shavuot, the holiday remembering the giving of the Torah to Moses at Mt. Sinai. But will we remember that when Moses descended from the mountain that first time, he broke the tablets by throwing them on the ground in an angry fit. Why was he mad? Because he had just spent sacred, holy time directly with God, only to descend the mountain to find the people surrounding a Golden Calf idol that they had built. They were engaged in a raucous party around a false God— where instead of noble values, the standard of gold and beauty was worshipped.
The Talmud, BT Shabbat 87a, notes that Moses destroyed this set of tablets with the permission of God. Moses reasoned that if the people could not share their Passover lamb meal (which appears in this week’s Torah portion, Beha’alot’cha) with an apostate, then how could he share the Torah with they who had become apostates?
He could not be in sacred relationship with a people who were so misguided, and he knew that God could not be, either. Fortunately, the situation turned around, the people repented and he was able to ascend the mountain once again and bring down the covenant which sealed our sacred bond that continues today. After this happened, we learn that God dwelled among the people in the Tent of the Meeting.
This story shows that God, sometimes is compassionate enough to allow for the community to get it right a second time.
When society is astray, it is upon all of us to recognize that, and also recognize that we must return again to make it right. We can then reaffirm the bonds of community and establish systems of fairness, decency, dignity, and equality for all, and then, God will truly dwell with us. We have a second chance right now to set up the world in a better way. Will we take it?
The above is a reflection by Rabbi Heather Miller on this week's Torah portion, Parashat Beha'alot'cha, Numbers8:1-12:16. Please visit rabbiheathermiller.com to subscribe and follow on social media.