Carnegie Shul Chatter – February 28, 2013

Candle lighting time is 5:53


This week’s parshah is Ki Tisa which includes the story of the golden calf.  So tell me, how does a people that has just witnessed God’s plagues against Egypt and the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea, who has been fed manna from heaven, and who has heard God’s utterance of the Ten Commandments, still have doubts about God?  S0 Moses does not come back down from Mt. Sinai as quickly as they expected, so what?  How could they possibly turn their backs against God and build a golden calf to worship?

Granted it was a very small minority of the Jews that did this, but still, how could they doubt?

But the story of this parsah is much more than the building of the golden calf and the sinfulness of those who worshiped before it.  To me the more important stories are of the courage of Moses, who pleads to God to forgive the people, and the mercy of God as he forgives the people for this terrible breach of faith.

When God sees the people dancing before the calf, he sends Moses back down from Sinai saying, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of you a great nation.”  To which Moses courageously replies, ““Why, O God, should Your wrath burn against Your people, whom You have brought forth out of the land of Egypt  with great power, and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should Egypt speak, and say: ‘In evil did He bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce anger, and relent of this evil against Your people!

“Remember Abraham, Isaac and Israel, Your servants, to whom You did  swear by Your own self, and did say to them: ‘I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give to your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.'”

And God regretted the evil which he thought to do to His people.

And later, after Moses instructs the Levites to kill 3000 men who were deemed to be the great culprits in the golden calf episode, Moses speaks again to God saying, “I beseech You: this people has sinned a great  sin, and they have made them a god of gold.

“Now, if you will forgive their sin–; and if not, pray, blot me out of Your book which you have written.”

And God does, in fact forgive, and even presents Moses with a second tablet of Commandments to replace those that Moses had destroyed.

And God then presents to Moses the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy that demonstrate once again how merciful our God truly is.

The Attributes of Mercy, as found in, are as follows:

– The Lord! (Adonai)–God is merciful before a person sins! Even though aware that future evil lies dormant within him.

– The Lord! (Adonai)–God is merciful after the sinner has gone astray.

– God (El)–a name that denotes power as ruler over nature and humankind, indicating that God’s mercy sometimes surpasses even the degree indicated by this name.

– Compassionate (rahum)–God is filled with loving sympathy for human frailty does not put people into situations of extreme temptation, and eases the punishment of the guilty.

– Gracious (v’hanun)–God shows mercy even to those who do not deserve it consoling the afflicted and raising up the oppressed.

– Slow to anger (ereh apayim)–God gives the sinner ample time to reflect, improve, and repent.

– Abundant in Kindness (v’rav hesed)–God is kind toward those who lack personal merits, providing more gifts and blessings than they deserve; if one’s personal behavior is evenly balanced between virtue and sin, God tips the scales of justice toward the good.

– Truth (v’emet)–God never reneges on His word to reward those who serve Him.

– Preserver of kindness for thousands of generations (notzeir hesed la-alafim)–God remembers the deeds of the righteous for thebenefit of their less virtuous generations of offspring (thus we constantly invoke the merit of the Patriarchs).

– Forgiver of iniquity (nosei avon)–God forgives intentional sin resulting from an evil disposition, as long as the sinner repents.

– Forgiver of willful sin (pesha)–God allows even those who commit a sin with the malicious intent of rebelling against and angering Him the opportunity to repent.

– Forgiver of error (v’hata’ah)–God forgives a sin committed out of carelessness, thoughtlessness, or apathy.

– Who cleanses (v’nakeh)–God is merciful, gracious, and forgiving, wiping away the sins of those who truly repent; however, if one does not repent, God does not cleanse.



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