SHOW ME THE WAY
When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after forty days and forty nights of receiving the Torah, he was met with the horrible sight of the Children of Israel dancing around the Golden Calf. He then "became angry, and threw down the tablets" (Exodus 32:19).
When Moses came down from Mt. Sinai after forty days and forty nights of receiving the Torah, he was met with the horrible sight of the Children of Israel dancing around the Golden Calf. He then "became angry, and threw down the tablets" (Exodus 32:19). The Talmud (Tractate Yevamot 62a) tells us that when Moses broke the Ten Commandments, his reaction was not out of an emotional state of rage; rather it was based upon an intellectual decision.
The Torah relates that when Moses was still up on Mt. Sinai, Hashem told him about the horrible things which the Jews were doing down below. If Moses' response was an intellectual decision, the Maharsha (a leading 17th century Polish commentator on the Talmud) asks, then he should have reacted as soon as Hashem informed him of the sin! Why did Moses wait until he actually saw them dancing around the Golden Calf? The Maharsha answers that Moses waited to break the tablets until he was in front of the Jewish people in order to teach them an important halacha (law) -- that a person is not allowed to rely on the testimony of one person. Of course Moses could have trusted Hashem that the people were worshipping idols, but he chose to wait to break the tablets so that the Children of Israel could learn from his example not to do anything based upon the testimony of only one person. If Moses was "unwilling" to rely on Hashem's testimony because He is only one, we certainly cannot rely on only one person.
When we stop to analyze this, it seems a bit puzzling. When Moses was told by Hashem about the nation's sin, he immediately knew that the only way by which they would be saved was through his prayers and supplications to Hashem pleading for forgiveness. He also was well aware of the fact that even with his prayers, they would not be totally forgiven, and a portion of the nation would die out through hunger and plagues. Why, when he was burdened with such a great responsibility and had many more important things to worry about, would he care about teaching the Jewish people by example? He could have waited and told them this law along with the rest of the Torah!
We see from here the importance of teaching by example. Moses knew that by educating the Jewish people through his example, he could make a bigger impression on them than if he would have simply told them the law by word of mouth. This was so important to him that when the opportunity came along to demonstrate this law, he jumped upon it even at such a difficult time.
We too need to be examples for our children and peers. When we have a choice between telling them what's right and wrong, or showing them through our own actions, we see from our teacher Moses the importance of going the extra distance to set examples, ingraining the message within them that much more.
Yaacov Cohen, who hails from Atlanta, is studying at the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study (WITS).
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