At the end of last week’s Parsha, Moshe returned to the Bnai Yisroel with the second set of Luchos. It was Yom Kippur, 2449 and the start of a new relationship with both Moshe and Hashem. This relationship was fundamentally different from what it had been prior to the Golden Calf. In the same manner that spousal intimacy and trust is irreparably damaged through the betrayal of adultery; so too, the relationship between Hashem and the nation had been irreversibly altered. Never again could we claim the innocence of pure fidelity and unbroken trust. Therefore; Moshe had to build a new and more honest relationship between the nation and Hashem with adjusted, but realistic, expectations.
The notion of a “second chance” in a relationship should not deny the fundamental changes that occur when trust is shattered. The “second chance” provides a second opportunity to develop a new, but changed, relationship that takes into account the realities of revealed weaknesses and adjusted expectations. The second Luchos were the Bnai Yisroel’s second chance for building a lasting, but changed, relationship with G-d. This changed relationship demanded that every nuance of our service toward Hashem be reviewed with concern for the effect that this change would have on the relationship. Therefore; every detail of the Mishkan’s construction had to be revisited in the two Parshiot following the Golden Calf.
It is important and comforting to note that the inherent and expected changes in the relationship, due to the broken trust, did not have any external manifestation, and that every detail was the same before and after the incident of the Golden Calf.
I expect that someone is going to ask, “But, wasn’t the commandment to build the Mishkan first given, chronologically speaking, after the Golden Calf!? So, of course there wouldn’t be any changes!” The answer is, yes. The Mishkan was a response to the fundamental changes that resulted due to the Golden Calf. However; the Torah did not have to state the details twice, once would have been sufficient. The fact that the Torah does repeat itself, teaches us that the altered nature of a “second chance” should be internal and private, not external and public. Sensitivity and respect demands that “dirty laundry” remain private even after its been cleaned! The Mishkan was a response to the Golden Calf, but Hashem recorded for all time that the inherent changes were to remain “private family business”. As far as anyone else could see, His forgiveness was absolute and unqualified. Similarly, Moshe did not wear his veil when addressing the people as Hashem’s representative. At those times, all could gaze upon the radiant face of Moshe and feel the intimacy of Hashem’s presence. However; in private, as an individual member of the nation, Moshe wore a veil as a reminder of the irrevocable changes that had occurred in the Bnai Yisroel’s relationship with Hashem and himself.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA.