After the Golden Calf

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Parashat Ki Tisa 5772

If it’s possible for a whole nation to have a bad hair day, then the Jewish people had one.

The people were confused about when Moshe would return from Har Sinai. They got anxious and urged Aharon to make a visual representation of God (Shemot 32: 1-6).

This is the event that is called Cheit HaEigal or the Golden Calf.

After Moshe returned to the camp, he destroyed the Golden Calf. He then went back up to Har Sinai to plead for the people (Shemot 32:30-32).

Moshe pleaded with HaShem that the Divine Presence would remain with the people. Here is part of that exchange (translation from Judaica Press):

Shemot Chapter 33

17 And the Lord said to Moses: “Even this thing that you have spoken, I will do, for you have found favor in My eyes, and I have known you by name.”

18 And he said: “Show me, now, Your glory!”

19 He said: “I will let all My goodness pass before you; I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you, and I will favor when I wish to favor, and I will have compassion when I wish to have compassion.”

20 And He said, “You will not be able to see My face, for man shall not see Me and live.”

21 And the Lord said: “Behold, there is a place with Me, and you shall stand on the rock.

22 And it shall be that when My glory passes by, I will place you into the cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with My hand until I have passed by.

23 Then I will remove My hand, and you will see My back but My face shall not be seen.”

My Questions

Shemot 33:17

What does it mean that Moshe found favor in God’s eyes and that God knows him by name? Doesn’t God know everyone?

Shemot 33:18

What does Moshe want to see? In this context, what is God’s glory?

Shemot 33:19

Why does God say He will show Moshe all of His goodness? Is this the same as His glory?

How can God show Moshe “all My goodness”? The word “all” implies that it is finite!

How does the rest of the verse answer Moshe’s question?

Shemot 33:20

Since we are taught that God does not have a physical form, how are we to understand God’s face?

Shemot 33:21

What is this place that is “with” God?

Shemot 33:22

This verse again uses the word glory instead of goodness. Why?

In the previous verse Moshe was standing on the rock, now he is placed in the cleft of the rock. Why the difference?

What does God’s hand symbolize in this verse?

Shemot 33:23

What does it mean that Moshe can see God’s back?

Why repeat that Moshe cannot see God’s face?

Purim Bonus Question

We celebrate Purim this week. Can you relate the Golden Calf and these verses to Megilat Esther?

Your Turn

Please share your questions and suggested answers in the comments.

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Picture of Mitzpe Ramon, Israel by Shlomo Skinner.

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