Image: My sukkah. Photo by Rabbi Ruth Adar.
This is a special Shabbat – Shabbat Chol HaMoed, a Shabbat that falls in the middle days of Sukkot. (For more about Chol haMoed, read What is Chol HaMoed?)
It contains a famous do-over: Moses has broken the tablets in rage at the sight of the Israelites dancing before the Golden Calf. Now God directs Moses in making a new set of tablets.
Often when we have had a big fight with someone, we think, “Well, that’s it. That relationship is over.” We give up on that person, and on our ability to make things right. Torah teaches us differently in this Torah portion. God and Moses reconcile, and through Moses, God and Israel reconcile:
The Eternal came down in a cloud; He stood with him there, and proclaimed the name yud-hey-vav-hey.* The Eternal passed before him and proclaimed: “The Eternal! the Eternal! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet God does not remit all punishment, but visits the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.”
Moses hastened to bow low to the ground in homage, and said, “If I have gained Your favor, O Lord, pray, let the Lord go in our midst, even though this is a stiffnecked people. Pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for Your own!”
He [God] said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will work such wonders as have not been wrought on all the earth or in any nation; and all the people who are with you shall see how awesome are the LORD’s deeds which I will perform for you.
This is both an example of how to apologize, and how to accept an apology. Moses and God meet on Mt. Sinai, and they have a conversation. Moses asks for pardon; God grants it, and re-affirms the covenant.
This is also what we can do during Sukkot: it’s a perfect time to get together with the people we apologized to during the High Holy Days and to make a real and lasting peace. If God and Moses can do it, why can’t we?
Locating sermons for this week has proved to be a real puzzle, so I’m going to suggest that we all attend synagogue. If that’s not an option for you, call up someone with whom you need to make peace and say, “Let’s get together!”
Hillel and Shammai received [the Torah] from them. Hillel says, “Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving living creatures and bringing them closer to Torah.” – Pirkei Avot 1:12
*The name spelled yud-hey-vav-hey is never pronounced by Jews. I usually translate it as “Eternal” or “the Eternal” because (1) you know to Whom I refer and (2) it reflects the likelihood that this name is based on the Hebrew verb “to be.” For more about The Name in Jewish tradition, see What Is God’s Name?