This Matter Depends on Me. Parshat Ki Tisa

This week’s portion is Ki Tisa which describes the incident of the Golden Calf. 

Exodus 32:7-11  ” The Lord spoke to Moses, “Hurry down, for  your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted basely.  They have been quick to turn aside fromm the way that I enjoined upon them.  They have made themselves a molten calf and bowed low to it and sacrificed to it, saying: ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!”  The Lord further said to Moses, ” I see that this is a stiffnecked people. Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make you a great nation.”  But Moses implored the Lord….”

In the Babylonian Talmud we can read a wonderful Midrash on this passage which explores the encounter between Moses and God.

“And the Lord spoke unto Moses, Go, get thee down. What is meant by ‘Go, get thee down’? R. Eleazar said: The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: Moses, descend from thy greatness. Have I at all given to thee greatness save for the sake of Israel? And now Israel have sinned; then why do I want thee? Straightway Moses became powerless and he had no strength to speak. When, however, [God] said, Let Me alone that I may destroy them, Moses said to himself: This depends upon me, and straightway he stood up and prayed vigorously and begged for mercy. It was like the case of a king who became angry with his son and began beating him severely. His friend was sitting before him but was afraid to say a word until the king said, Were it not for my friend here who is sitting before me I would kill you. He said to himself, This depends on me, and immediately he stood up and rescued him.”  BT Berachot 32a

“Davar Zeh Talu’i Bi”-This matter depends on me.”.   Moses realizes that his intervention is essential, becasue it is his responsibility.  No one else can fill the gap.  This is such an essential teaching, not only for leadership, but for each of us in our lives.  Sometimes we face difficult even intractable situations.  We can blame others; we can walk away; we can make excuses. But ultimately we are responsible. And if more and more people feel this way a real community becomes possible. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

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