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EXODUS 32:7-8 – GO AND DESCEND!

Hashem said to Moses: Go and descend! For your people that you have brought up from the land of Egypt have become corrupt…they have made for themselves a molten calf! They bowed down to it and sacrificed to it…” (Exodus 32:7-8).

Moses descends from the mountain with the two tablets in his hands and is so shocked by what he sees that he smashes the tablets at the foot of the mountain (verse 19).

It’s hard to understand why Moses is so upset by what he saw since G-d told him exactly what the people were doing. Why was he so shocked?

Actually, G-d didn’t tell him exactly what was going on. In reading the text of what Moses actually sees, there is one word that doesn’t appear in G-d’s description of the goings on:

“And it was, that as he approached the camp, he saw the calf and the dancing. Moses’ anger flared, and he hurled the tablets from his hands, breaking them at the foot of the mountain (32:19).

According to commentators such as R’ Ovadiah Sforno, It was the dancing! It was one thing for the people to be doing the wrong thing – but for them to be into it, celebrating their sin – that was too much for Moses.

The Talmud suggests that the Jewish people faced annihilation at the hands of Haman in the Purim story because they enjoyed themselves at the party thrown by Achashverosh (Megillah 12a).

The commentaries point out that if they had just gone and eaten because it would have been dangerous to not go – they could have been excused. But they didn’t feel bad about having to go – they thoroughly enjoyed themselves! That was the problem.

By Rabbi Michael Skobac

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