(Haftara: Parah: Ezekiel 36:16-38)
1. [32:19] “…and he threw the tablets from his hands and he broke them…” Although Moshe knew about the sin of the golden calf before he came down from the mountain, he still broke the tablets. [32:7,8]. The Sforno (1475-1550, Italy) says that when Moshe saw how happy the Israelites were, he got angry and threw the tablets down. The Rashbam (1085–1158, France). says that Moshe lost his strength when he saw the worshippers and he threw the tablets so they wouldn’t fall on his feet when they dropped. Which of these explanations seems better to you?
2. Rashi says that Aharon co-operated in making the calf because he was scared of being killed. The Ibn Ezra says that Aharon co-operated because he didn’t believe that the calf was idolatry. And if it were idolatry, he would not have done it, even under the threat of death. What is the difference between the way that each of the commentators sees Aharon? How would each viewpoint affect other stories of Aharon in the Torah?
3. [32:4] Rashi says that the “mixed multitudes”—the non-Israelites who also came out of Egypt–started the sin of the golden calf, and then lured the Israelites into doing the sin. The Torah does not specifically say this. We know that the Israelites are also capable of negative behaviour, so what does Rashi gain by blaming the “mixed multitudes”?
4. [Haftara: Ezekiel 36:21] “I took pity on my holy name… “ God says that He will return the Jews to their land, and in that way, He will save the honour of His holy name. When the Jews went into exile, how was His holy name desecrated, and how is His holy name honoured by the return of the Jews to the land of Israel? What if the Jews don’t act properly in their land—is there still honour?
5. [36:26] “I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”. What specific changes will happen to the individual and then to the nation as a whole, when this prophecy is realized?
[32:26] “…whoever is for God, let him come to me, and all the sons of Levi gathered [to Moshe]”. We know that many Israelites did not worship the golden calf. The sons of Levi were not the only ones. However, the others did not have the courage to actively oppose the wrong-doers. They wanted to remain uninvolved. They did not want arguments. Only Levi actively opposed the evil. That’s why God says, “The Levi’im are mine. [Bamidbar 3:11]
–R. Yitchak Meir of Ger (1798-1866), Poland.
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