Torah from Around the World #262

By Rabbi Ruven Bar Ephraim, Or Chadasch Congregation, Zurich, Switzerland, and Rabbinic
Advisor to the


One comes into the world, usually with two parents, perhaps siblings, aunts,
uncles, Grandparents and other relatives. The family situation changes when you
have a spouse. He / she brings her / his family clan into the marriage. As long
as the pair is of one heart and one soul, you have a Happy Family. But when relationships
get fired up, suddenly, it turns to: “It’s



God speaks with different people in the Bible. We read about conversations with
Adam and Eve, with Noach, who doesn’t say a word back, and a negotiation
between Avraham and God over the fate of the sinful cities of Sodom and
Gomorrah. Throughout the book of Sh’mot, (Exodus) Moses and God converse with
each other. God wants Moses to do certain things. Moses is sometimes reluctant
to obey, brings his objections into the conversation, begs, cries out and
negotiates. Their relationship is very similar to a marriage: you’re in love
and you fight. In the Sidra of this week, Ki Tisa, there is a crisis-like
confrontation between God and Moses.

Moses remains on Mount Sinai for 40 days, where he receives from God many different
orders, rules and procedures, together with instructions on how to pass the
message on to the people. God gives Moses the two stone tablets with the
engraved Ten Commandments. The people at the foot of the mountain wait and wait,
meanwhile developing some serious doubts about whether Moses will ever come
back. The people are frustrated and revert to ancient certainties. Under the
leadership of Aharon, the earrings of the women, sons and daughters are melted into
an idol, and lo and behold, the golden calf is created. God is outraged: “Hurry
down. For


people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt,
have acted basely” (Exodus 32: 7). And a bit further: “Now let Me be, that
My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them…” (ibid
10).  Moses responds with: “Let not Your
anger, O Eternal One, blaze forth against


people, whom You
delivered from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand” (ibid

God and Moses, both frustrated by the behavior of the People of Israel, point
the finger at each other as to the ‘ownership’ of the People. Then Moses makes a
surprisingly bold and clever argument: “Let not the Egyptians say, ‘It was with
evil intent that He delivered them, only to kill them off in the mountains and
annihilate them from the face of the earth,’ Turn from Your blazing anger, and
renounce the plan to punish Your people.” (ibid 12).

And then something out of the ordinary happens: God gives in: “And the Eternal One
renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon his people.” (ibid

Suddenly the relationships between man and God change. Suddenly God waivered
its superiority, and leaves it the people to make the moves. From this moment on,
it is our turn. From this moment on, God gives us a responsibility regarding
our behavior and that of our fellow human beings. From here on, we know that we
can and need to make the world a better place. God has given us not only the
possibility but also the Mitzvah to do so. At the end of the day, it is not





Shabbat shalom,

Recent Issues

More About: