Gauging your relationship with your G-d

chuppahIn Parsha Terumah, Tetzaveh, and Ki Tisa, which begins in Exodus 25 and runs through the end of chapter 34, Hashem gives Moshe the instructions for building the Mikdash (the Sanctuary or the Temple), yet in the very same verse it uses the term haMishkan (the Tabernacle). Additionally, Moshe is given the instructions for the Sanctuary’s furniture, the Bigdei Kehuna (clothing of the priesthood), as well as the basic outline of the duties of the Cohen. At the end of this long instruction Hashem concludes with the following:

And Hashem said to Moses, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Shabbats, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, Hashem, sanctify you. You shall keep the Shabbat, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a Shabbat of solemn rest, holy to Hashem. Whoever does any work on the Shabbat day shall be put to death. Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the Shabbat, observing the Shabbat throughout their generations, as a covenant forever. It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days Hashem made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.’” [Exodus 31:12-17]

At the conclusion of this passage, Exodus 31:18 states, “And he [Hashem] gave to Moshe, when he had finished speaking with him on Mount Sinai, the two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of G-d.” Incredibly, Moshe carries in him arms the luchot formed and written by the finger of G-d. These are the things found only in an Indiana Jones flick.

All of this is put to ruin when, in Chapter 32, the episode of the Cheit HaEgel (Sin of the Golden Calf) occurs. The people order their leaders to build them a god. We often hear that Moshe was intensely angry when he witnessed the golden calf, and in this anger he threw the tablets down. This line of reasoning says that Moshe, by breaking the luchot, was shattering the covenant that we broke at the base of the mountain with the calf. In effect, Moshe was saying, “If you’re going to break the covenant with Hashem, you do not have a covenant with Hashem at all. There’s a slight problem with this logic, though. Exodus 32:10, Hashem says, “Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” If Moshe truly believed we didn’t deserve the covenant, he would have submitted to the words of Hashem. Instead he says, “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.

Another scenario to consider, and one I find superior, is that when Moshe looked down at the people, he saw them slaughtering animals, eating, eating, and carousing licentiously. He became angry. “How can they be committing avodah zarah at the base of the very mountain from which the voice of Hashem was heard. Just this morning, the people went out to gather Manna, true bread from heaven.” Think about that for a moment. Quail came when they desired meat and Manna fell every morning except on Shabbat. In spite of the empiric evidence that G-d was with them, they committed adultery. Moshe saw them worshipping an image of cast gold. Moshe looked at the luchot in his hands: these were constructed and written by the hand and finger of G-d. Our tradition provides details that make the tablets anything less than magnificent. If the Children of Israel were so quick to worship an object they created, how much more would they worship the luchot that were made by G-d. Moshe raised them over his head and hurled the to the stones at his feet. He effectively removed an object that might become an object of worship. The second time Moshe comes to the mountain, he brings some tablets hewn by, presumably, Betzalal.

After the sin of the golden calf, Moshe returns to the Mountain for 40 days and asks for G-d to forgive the people, and He forgives.

Upon Moshe’s return from the Har Sinai on his second trip, Moshe comes down from the mountain carrying the second set of tablets, al haluchot et divrei habrit, asirot hadevarim (the tablets of words of the covenant, the ten words). As he walked down from Horev, he didn’t realize his face shone; he was the calendar boy for Oil of Olay. As he speaks for the first time to the people of Israel since the sin, Moshe instructs the Children of Israel to begin a construction project: building the Mishkan (the Tabernacle). The Project Manual begins in chapter 35. Moshe introduces the task at hand by – not talking about the building – but he speaks first about the mitzvah of Shabbat. The question that should be asked is why would Hashem direct Moshe to speak on the Shabbat? At least four possibilities exist.

[1] In his chen [grace or lovingkindness] Hashem was making it clear that unlike us, we do not have to “create a new history” after a downfall. While many or most of us require that a person who has wronged us must work to rebuild trust before we can trust again, Hashem was making it clear that He is the God of new beginnings and He was starting from the last known point when our relationship was solid and good. This was when Moshe was on the mountain getting instruction from Hashem and the last recorded message was regarding the holiness of Shabbat. Hashem was saying we were able to continue our relationship as if the cheit haegel never occurred

[2] Hashem was making it clear that while it was very important to make a sanctuary for the luchot, it was not so important that creative labor and construction on Shabbat was warranted. By twice warning us to cease from melachah (work), He was making it clear that keeping Shabbat took precedence even over the construction of the Sanctuary

[3] These two rules of Shabbat, along with other rules throughout Torah was simply given for purposes of exposition. The various mitzvot about Shabbat in Torah, when combined, provide a clear understanding of the true nature of melachah. Without these examples, our understanding would be incomplete.

There is great merit in these ideas. I find the next two chapters and the more-than-two-dozen uses of melachah (work) to be extremely enlightening, but I will not bore you with these at the moment, especially since carrying and kindling a fire are separated from the rest of melachah, but that’s for another day.

There is a fourth possibility why would Hashem direct Moshe to first speak on the Shabbat:

[4] Hashem was attempting to curb our unusual proclivity toward avodah zarah (idolatry). By reminding us that Hashem spent six days creating and ceased from creating on the seventh, we likewise, are called to imitate our Creator and cease from our creative endeavors. By knowing our actions must mirror our G-d’s, we will be less likely to fall into idolatry.

What’s interesting is that we seem to have solved our avodah zarah problem, but the cultures in which we find ourselves have substituted idolatry for adultery. While we are far too intelligent and wise to fall for the appeal of the rituals of idol worship, but introduce us to a readily promiscuous strange woman or man, and that will capture our imagination. Let me remind you of a very important thing: avodah (worship) and marital relations are holy activities and in order to make these activities holy, they must be reduced to singularities. When I say Avodah with Hashem is an intimate activity of singularity, I mean we only worship Hashem and we are to devote our heart, soul, and mind to the task. This makes worship an intimate act; this makes worship a holy act. Submission to this principle allows the Ruach Hashem to dwell in our midst. In like manner, our devotion to our spouse is an intimate activity of singularity. We love only our spouse and we are to dedicate our heart, soul, and mind to that task. Our relationship with our spouse imitates our relationship with our G-d; we are made a complete soul in unity with Hashem, yet our cleft soul is healed in marriage.

If you want to gauge your relationship with your G-d, step back and look at your relationship with your spouse. You cannot [and you will not] have a fulfilling relationship with G-d if you are controlled by selfishness in your marriage.

The most important thing to maintain or to repair is the relationship with your wife or your husband. If you’re single, you are exempt, of course, but you are missing out on a spiritual dynamic that is incomparable.

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