Beyond the Merit of Our Forefathers
The Jewish nation encamped at the bottom of Mount Sinai eagerly awaiting Moshe’s return. When they saw that Moshe delayed in descending the mountain they demanded that Aharon make for them gods to replace Moshe as a leader. They said, “this man Moshe who brought us up from Egypt – we do not know what became of him.”
Aharon instructed them to remove the gold from the ears of their wives, sons, and daughters and bring it to him. The entire nation removed their gold rings and Aharon took it from their hands and bound it up in a cloth and they made from it a molten calf. The people then proclaimed “this is your god, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
They arose early the next day and brought elevation and peace offerings, ate, drank and got up to revel. It was at that point that Hashem told Moshe, “Go, descend – for your people that you brought up from Egypt has become corrupt.”
I find it quite troublesome that when speaking to Moshe, Hashem refers to the nation as “your people whom you brought up.” It seems as though Hashem is placing the blame on Moshe. That would be unfair since Moshe had absolutely nothing to do with the sin, not to mention the fact that he did not want the job of taking the people out from Egypt in the first place.
Moshe pleads with Hashem and says, “Why, Hashem should your anger flare up against Your people, whom You have taken out of the land of Egypt, with great power and a strong hand.”
Moshe is saying that the nation is indeed G-d’s and it was G-d who took them out with a strong hand and great might. Moshe ultimately convinces Hashem not to annihilate the nation by invoking the covenant with the forefathers. Moshe descends the mountain, sees the revelry with the golden calf and smashes the tablets. He then confronts Aharon, the Levites kill 3000 men and Hashem strikes the people with a plague. At this point, Hashem tells Moshe that He will no longer ascend among the people, but instead will be sending an angel while emphasizing once again that it was Moshe who brought the nation out of Egypt
Up to this point, Hashem traveled with the nation but they failed to fully acknowledge and interact with G-d, instead choosing time and again to look towards an intermediary. At the revelation at Sinai during the ten commandments, they could not handle the direct interaction with G-d and requested that Moshe act as a go-between. The sin of the Golden Calf was precipitated by the fact that Moshe was delayed and they desired a new intermediary to act between them and G-d. Had they relied on G-d this catastrophe would have been avoided. Therefore, G-d is telling Moshe that these people consider themselves “your” nation and credit the Exodus to “you” and that is what led them to sin.
Moshe pleads with Hashem to make Himself known to Moshe saying, “I might find favor in Your eyes and see that this nation is your people.” In response, Hashem passes before Moshe and reveals His 13 attributes of mercy.
How do the 13 attributes of mercy illustrate that the nation is indeed G-d’s people?
Each of the 13 attributes of mercy that Hashem bestows on His people stem forth from His love. Hashem forged a covenant with our forefathers that is not dependent on reciprocity rather is an eternal oath ensuring our nation’s existence. When Moshe tried to convince G-d not to annihilate the nation by invoking the merit of the forefathers it was enough despite the gravity of the sin which severed the relationship between nation and G-d. When Hashem revealed His 13 attributes of mercy to Moshe He was explaining the mechanism that He employs to stay true to that promise. The covenant Hashem made with our forefathers was a guarantee of the ongoing relationship. The 13 attributes are the therapy that keeps us together. Hashem utilizes the 13 attributes with us and we are meant to use these attributes in our relationships with each other. By doing so we strengthen our bond with not only our fellow man but with G-d as well as it brings forth the G-d from within us.
We have relied on the 13 attributes of mercy for thousands of years to remain a nation of G-d. It is time to step forward and fully atone for the sin of the golden calf by declaring that we are ready to have a direct relationship with Hashem. The best way to forge a relationship with G-d is by emulating His attributes. If we want to show G-d that we seriously desire His closeness we will act with kindness and compassion towards one another. That, in turn, will bring down His presence to reside among us.
We have suffered from the void long enough.
Let’s walk in His ways and welcome Him home.