Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35) Broken Tablets-Maturing Souls

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            This week we meet one of the most powerful stories in Torah. Moses, Aaron, God and Israelites and the Golden Calf. No doubt you may encounter some of historical aspects of the story (see I Kings 12).  The story is highlighted by the powerful scene of the “broken tablets” (Exodus 32:15-20) The “broken tablets” story has many meanings. The carrying of the broken tablets in the Ark, along with the new tablets, has received many interpretations. It is a beautiful image.

            But the story also can speak to us as we get older and review our life’s choices. We have all experienced brokenness. What can this story mean for us now? Our broken dreams can reflect the disappointments in life that we have all experienced, maybe the dreams we have had that remain unfulfilled? There is a Midrash that says that Moses, advanced in years, was carrying the tablets down the mountain when he sees the Israelites dancing around the Calf. At that moment, the letters fly off the tablets which become too heavy for Moses and the tablets fall. The Midrash explains that when Moses felt that he was bringing something to people who were ready for it, he was filled with passion and purpose. He sees the reality, the people were not ready and thus he “had reason to suspect that his efforts were in vain, the task became too hard for him”. (Etz Hayim. 534)

            We have all been there. We wished for something, we dreamt of something, we worked for something, and it just never came to be. We were broken. In her book “Sacred Therapy”, Estelle Frankel comments in this passage. She notes that the original tablets may reflect many of the dreams and hopes, and even spiritual structure of our youth. Then we live our life. Reality sets in and we learn. This story “teaches us that it is important to hold on to the beauty and essence of dreams that we once held dear, for our initial visions contain the seed of our purest essence. Gathering up the broken pieces suggests that we must salvage the essential elements of our youthful dreams and ideals and carry them forward on our journeys so that we can find a way to realize them in a more grounded fashion.  For ultimately the whole and the broken live side by side in us all, as our broken dreams and shattered visions exist alongside our actual lives” ( “Sacred Therapy” p. 43)

            Yes, we have all been there. We all have these moments of brokenness. This story, however, can teach us that we move on. We carry those moments with us as we write our own life’s journey and, we hope, that those moments help us to grow emotionally and spiritually. Our present is the result of our past; all of it.

Shabbat shalom

Rabbi Richard F Address


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