It’s too late. I’m too far gone. It’ll never be the same. How many times have we heard those words? Or worse still, said them?
This week’s Torah portion tells the story of the Golden Calf, the worst national sin in the history of the Jewish people. How humiliating to the Jews! Just weeks after the greatest revelation of all time, when they saw and heard God up close and personal, they go and bow down to a cow?! How fickle can you get? But the Torah is unflinchingly honest and records this most unflattering moment of ours in all its gory detail.
Perhaps the very important lessons we need to draw from this embarrassing episode are, first, that people do sin, human beings do make mistakes, and even inspired Jews who saw the Divine with their own eyes can mess up. And, second, that even afterwards there is still hope, no matter what – not only to fix the mistake but learn from it and connect even deeper and higher then ever before.
In the very same parshah, we read how God tells Moses to carve a second set of tablets, to replace the first set that Moses smashed when he came down the mountain and was shocked by what the Jews were up to. The Torah does not intend to diminish our respect for that generation, but rather to help us understand human frailty, our moral weakness, and the reality of relationships – spiritual or otherwise.
God gave us a perfect Torah. The tablets were hand-made by God, pure and sacred, and then we messed up. So is it all over? Is there really no hope now? Are we beyond redemption? After all, what could possibly be worse than idolatry? We broke the first two commandments and the tablets were shattered into smithereens because we were no longer worthy to have them. It was the ultimate infidelity.
So the Torah teaches us that all is not lost. As bad as it was – and it was bad – it is possible for man to repair the damage. Moses will make new tablets. They will be better and stronger than the first; they will last for eternity and will never break again.
What is the significance of breaking the glass under the chupah, the wedding canopy? Besides remembering Jerusalem and praying for her full restoration, this ceremony teaches a very important lesson about life to a bride and groom who are about to embark on their own new path in life. What happens immediately after the groom breaks the glass? Everyone shouts “Mazel Tov!” The message is clear. Something broke? Nu, it’s not the end of the world. We can even laugh about it and still be happy. Nisht geferlich. Lo nora. This too shall pass. A very practical, peace-keeping tip for the new couple. On the contrary, mistakes can lead us to much stronger and deeper bonds and unite us with everlasting unity.
There are people that take every opportunity and make it a challenge! However the Torah tells us to take every challenge and make it an opportunity.
That is also the message of Purim. We went to the party that King Achashverosh invited us to. Mordechai told us not to go but we went anyway and God was upset with us. He wanted to destroy us so He sent Haman to carry this out. However, we learned from our mistake and repented and now we get the greatest holiday in the year. Purim is considered even greater than Yom Kippur. Why? Because we took the challenge and made it into an opportunity.
May God bless us with only good news and only good opportunity and a great Shabbos.