This Shabbat we read two portions, the weekly portion of Ki Tisa and a special portion for Parshat Parah (פרשת כי תיסע — פרה).
Last week’s parsha had the people of Israel leaving the mountain top experience of Mt. Sinai, seeing and hearing the Most High teach them the way of life (derech chaim) this week the same people beg for an idol to be made. The mitzvot, commandments and lifestyle given reflects the character of the Holy One Blessed Be He, in our lives as the people of the covenant.
Why did a portion of that people, a mixed multitude becoming one ask for a gold calf, an idol when Moshe was away? Was the idol a replacement for the God they experienced and were beginning to live in covenant with as a people or was the idol a replacement for Moshe the set apart tsadik (holy righteous man) that met with the Most High. Did they rely on him for their connection to God rather than seek God themselves?
How quickly can a people comprised of so many nations change? It was a mixed multitude which came out with Moshe. They lived in a secular, materialistic culture and the derech chaim given in the mitzvot or commandments was counter to that secular society. When the Moshe who came to represent HaShem was not there unease grew till they asked for what they had become accustomed to as slaves, an idol representing a fickle god.
When Moshe returned the people were worshiping an idol, a new god. The Most High was about to reject and kill the people who had broken the covenant bringing the consequence of death upon themselves leaving Moshe to begin a new people before HaShem. Moshe pleads that the Holy One, Blessed be He, remember the covenant with Abraham. He asks HaShem why he would be angry at the nation he brought through the exodus from Egypt. He asks the Holy One why he would want the other nations who know of the Hebrew’s God and the exodus to now see the same One destroy that people. He engages The Most High in a conversation relying on His mercy, kindness, faithfulness to be as present as His anger.
What does this bring to us today? Do we elevate someone to a position that leaves us vulnerable having with less connection to HaShem ourselves? How do we come to connect with the Most High. Do we know a fickle angry god or a God that knows us and maintains a covenant with us. Do I know that I may converse with the Most High when I have fallen and need to step back up to the covenant knowing HaShem is faithful even when I fall and that the righteous continually get back up and it is the wicked who wallow in the mud.
We have been given Shabbat as a reminder of creation for all, and a symbol of the covenant, a tear off ticket for the Olam HaBa, the World to Come. We can come to every Shabbat knowing it is a time set apart to connect doubly to the Most High. Start simple. Welcome the Shabbat Queen with the blessings and lighting of candles to set the time apart. Learn to make Challah and bless your family with fresh bread for Shabbat! Gradually, add family meal, friends, good Torah discussion, even songs. Gradually, subtract the business of any work, or distractions like TV. Learn the mitzvot of Shabbat and bring them to yourself and your family and see your connection to the Most High come to life. Perfection in keeping Shabbat isn’t the issue. Start somewhere, if you fall, step back up and join back in with the people and the way of life that gives life back to you as you connect with the Holy One Blessed Be He.