Ki Tisa – A Perfect Fall

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“Look what your kids are doing! Go see what your kids are making so much commotion about.” Parents, have you noticed that when your children fail to perform at acceptable levels they cease to be your little angels and become your spouse’s out of control problem? Parashat Ki Tisa contains a very interesting dialogue between Moses and God, where the Holy One appears to have developed the kind of selective memory problems that we often do toward our own children. It shouldn’t shock us to hear Hashem say, “My children have gone astray,” or even something as extreme as “they have prostituted themselves before idols.” Or even “they are a stiff-necked” people, as he does happen to say in this parasha. But here, following building of Golden Calf, we see the kind of disclaimer reminiscent of “Mission Impossible” – “Should anything happen, we will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”


One would expect Moses to become the Children of Israel’s disheartened accuser, but like the audacious super-nanny, Moses pleads the case before God concerning His children. You can almost hear Moses say, “ None of the honors and none of the lands were great enough for your darlings so you left them slaves in the land of idolaters for over 400 years, and did you think they would not become idolaters?”

According to one Midrash Moses pleaded, “Lord I ask only what Abraham asked in the days of Sodom.” The Lord said, “So where are these ten righteous people.” Moses answered, “Caleb, Joshua, Aaron, Phineas, Ithamar, Eleazar and myself.” To this Hashem responded “But those are only seven.” Moses in turn querried, “Is there no resurrection from the dead? Then add to these Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to whom you swore that you would make a great nation.”

Moses knew that only the light of Hashem could make Israel the people they were destined to be. So why would he smash the tablets written with the finger of Hashem when he saw the people dancing around the golden idol? Certainly he was not taken by surprise since both God and Joshua had prepared him for the debauchery. According to one teaching from Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Heshil who is fondly known as Ohev Yisrael (Lover of Israel), Moses wanted to demonstrate to the people that even if a person falls spiritually, he or she could still receive the light of the Creator!

A similar insight can be found in the following story of the Baal Shem Tov. When he arrived at a small town weary and dusty from his long travels the villagers clamored to have the great man stay with them. When he had chosen a home to stay in the wealthiest and most prominent member of the community complained, “How can you stay at this person’s house, we all know that this man has done awful things. Anyone in town can vouch for my virtues and I can provide much more comfortable lodging.” The Baal Shem Tov replied, “We know that when a person falls no matter how low his state the Creator is always with him. But if a person is full of pride, the creator cannot be with him. You are correct that this man is responsible for many misdeeds, but the Creator is still with him. You on the other hand are so aware of your goodness that the Creator is not with you, and if the Creator cannot stay with you neither can I.”

The Greatest Rebbe of all, Yeshua, would often eat with tax collectors and sinners much to the chagrin of some self-righteous religious teachers. In response Mashiach Yeshua would tell parable after parable illustrating the very same point, that God most desires a humble and contrite heart. Or as Rabbi Yakov states in Pierke Avot, “Better one hour of repentance in Olam Hazeh (This World) than the entire life of the Olam Habah (Age to Come), and better one hour of spiritual bliss in the Olam Habah (World to Come) then the entire life of Olam Hazeh (This World).” In other words, when a sinner repents it is as though they are living in the light of The Age to Come.

So the story of the Golden Calf is really the story of each of us. It is no accident that Aaron fashions the idol and Israel falls to it at the very moment God gives Israel the tablets of the covenant. In this respect it is the perfect fall. One of the major lessons that we can take away is the realization that there will be times that we fall, that we find ourselves in very dark places. What precipitates our fall is of penultimate importance. What is ultimately most important that we realize we need this fall, we need the dark moment in which we find ourselves. It is only when we realize it is dark that we can see the light!

The lesson to Israel, and the lesson for us, is to separate the dark place where we have arrived from the action that has brought us to it. I believe at the moment of Gemmar HaTikkun (the final repair all things) we are going to look back and see how perfect each of our mistakes was. Israel fell for us and in turn we fall for the sake of others.

What is most intuitive is to read Ki Tisa and judge the actors quite harshly. Yet if we do so our thinking is undone by the surprising ending to the portion. The presence of Hashem passes before Moses and Moses radiates from the light he receives; so much so that he must cover his own face with a veil for the Children of Israel to look upon him. Oddly enough when we focus on the ending there is nothing negative to consider, there is no darkness, and there is no sin. There is only light, the Light of the Olam Habah, the Light of the Gemmar HaTikkun, and the Light of unending true love. A perfect ending to a perfect fall.

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