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ויהי כאשר קרב אל המחנה וירא את העגל ומחלת ויחר אף משה וישלך מידו את הלוחות וישבר אותם

It happened that as he drew near the camp and saw the calf and the dances, Moshe’s anger flared up. He threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them. (32:19)

Hashem had informed Moshe Rabbeinu that the nation had sinned egregiously, so that he should descend the mountain and return to his people. What novel lesson did Moshe learn when he returned that provoked him to shatter the Luchos? Why did he wait so long? Simply, we might suggest that while he certainly believed Hashem, the matter was not yet engraved on his heart that the nation would be guilty of such treason. It is one thing to believe in Hashem unequivocally; it is another thing to be prepared to shatter the Luchos as a result of this belief. Seeing…

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וישמע יהושע את קול העם ברעה

Yehoshua heard the sound of the people in its shouting. (32:17)

Targum Yonasan makes an intriguing statement: “Yehoshua heard the sounds of the nation as they wept amid joy before the (Golden) Calf.” Apparently, Targum Yonasan translates b’reio as being derived from teruah, which is the most broken sound of the shofar, like a yevavah, whimper/wailing, but definitely not a joyful expression. How does one weep joyfully? The two are opposites. How were they filled with joy, yet cry at the same time? Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, cites an incident that occurred with the Alter, zl, m’Novardok, Horav Yosef Yoizel Horowitz, which is illuminating. The Alter visited a town which was…

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ואתה קח לך בשמים ראש

Now you, take for yourself choice spices. (30:23)

The Ohr HaChaim observes that the command to Moshe Rabbeinu regarding the Shemen HaMishchah, anointing oil, is different from the other commands concerning the construction of the Mishkan. Regarding the other aspects of the Mishkan, Hashem spoke to Moshe in second person. His intention, however, was that Moshe convey His instructions to a surrogate to perform the actual work. Not so concerning the anointing oil which, in this case, Hashem wanted Moshe to produce from ingredients which Moshe himself would donate. While the original call to donate the various items needed for the construction of the Mishkan included Moshe as…

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ונתנו איש כפר נפשו

Every man shall give Hashem an atonement for his soul. (30:12)

The Baal HaTurim observes that the word, v’nasnu: vov, nun, saf, nun, vov, is a palindrome (in this instance, a word which reads the same backward as forward). This prompts him to posit that one who gives to tzedakah, charity, does not lose his contribution; rather, he receives it back. Hashem sees to it that one’s good deeds are not forgotten. What he gives to others will eventually be returned to him. Horav Mordechai Ilan, zl, notes another palindrome in the Torah: V’hikeihu, “And he will strike him” (Bereishis 32:9), which refers to Eisav’s striking one of Yaakov Avinu’s camps….

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ויאמר אם נא מצאתי חן בעיניך ... ילך נא ד' בקרבנו ... וסלחת לעונינו ולחטאתנו ונחלתנו.

And he (Moshe) said, “If I have found favor in Your eyes…let my Master go among us…and pardon our iniquity and our sins, and take us as Your own possession.” (34:9)

On the first day of Selichos we plead with Hashem: Pnei na el ha’telaos v’lo l’chataos; “Turn to our sufferings and not to our sins.” We understand that we have failed to keep our commitment to Hashem. He has given us so much and asked only that we maintain our fidelity to Him, that we observe His commandments. We failed because of all that is going on in our lives: troubles, problems, adversity, economic issues, health issues, spousal issues, children issues. Our mind is overburdened with telaos, tzaros, troubles. The Gaon, zl, m’Vilna was an outspoken proponent of aliyah, emigration,…

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ילך נא ד' בקרבנו כי עם קשה ערף הוא

Let my Master go among us; for it is a stiff-necked people. (34:9)

Hashem revealed to Moshe Rabbeinu His Yud Gimmel middos, Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, which signify that Hashem will forgive us out of a sense of Divine compassion. Understandably, we are not always worthy of His absolution. Thus, these Attributes come into play to guarantee that Hashem will never turn His “back” on us. Following the last of the middos, Moshe asks of Hashem, Yeilech na Hashem b’kirbeinu, “Let my Master go among us.” Why does this request follow immediately after the Attributes of Mercy? In his inimitable manner, the Maggid, zl, m’Dubno explains with a parable. A peddler who would…

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ויהי כאשר קרב אל המחנה וירא את העגל ומחלת ויחר אף משה וישלך מידו את הלחת וישבר אתם.

And as he (Moshe) approached the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing; Moshe’s anger blazed, and he threw down the Tablets that were in his hands and smashed them. (32:19)

The last three words of the Torah are: l’einei Bnei Yisrael, “before the eyes of Bnei Yisrael.” This refers to Moshe Rabbeinu’s greatest act of leadership, indeed, his epitaph: He broke the Luchos before the eyes of the Jewish people. Hashem agreed with Moshe’s decision. This is how the Torah ends. It begins with the Creation of the world and ends with (so to speak) the breaking of the Luchos. Clearly this begs elucidation. Does the Torah not present any other closing lesson, any other leadership decision that Moshe made that might deserve greater mention? Furthermore, how was Moshe able…

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זה יתנו כל העבר על הפקדים מחצית השקל השקל הקדש

Everyone passing by to be counted must give this half-shekel based on the shekel of the Holy. (30:13)

Why were the people commanded to give only a half-shekel? It clearly was not due to financial difficulty. It is not as if another half-shekel would have placed anyone on the poverty list. It is almost as if the Torah wants to send a message with the “half” shekel amount. Indeed, the commentators, each in his own inimitable approach, underscore the value of a “half” and how it applies to each Jew – knowing that on his own he is fractioned, he is not whole. He needs his fellow in order for him to become whole. Horav Yoshiahu Pinto, Shlita,…

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ומשה לא ידע כי קרן עור פניו בדברו אתו

Moshe did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant when Hashem had spoken to him. (34:29)

Rashi observes that, until this point, Moshe Rabbeinu’s face had not become radiant – even after having achieved the spiritual heights necessary to receive the Torah. It was only after he received the second Luchos that he earned the merit of koran ohr panav, radiant face. What about the second set of Luchos made such a difference? Horav Mordechai Gifter, zl, explains that the second set of Luchos were obtained in a manner that distinguished them from their predecessor. Following Klal Yisrael’s sin with the Golden Calf, Hashem was prepared to sever His relationship with the nation and rebuild Klal…

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הראני נא את כבודך

Show me please Your glory. (Shemos 33:18)

The cheit ha’eigel, sin of the Golden Calf, was committed forty days after Hashem gave Moshe Rabbeinu the Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, on Har Sinai. It was a sin for which Hashem wanted to destroy the Nation. While only a small group of people actually sinned, the rest of the nation stood by in apathy, either indifferent or unable to do anything to prevent the sin from occurring. As a result, Hashem held all of them in contempt, and He punished them. Hashem revoked His decree to destroy the nation due to Moshe Rabbeinu’s supplication on their behalf. Following Hashem’s…

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