Ki Tisa – Test of resolve


1 The people saw that Moses was delayed in descending from the mountain; the people congregated around Aaron, they said to him: Get up and make us gods that will lead us because we don’t know what has become of Moses, the man who brought us up from Egypt.

Exodus 32

A furious storm is one in which brutal waves relentlessly attack the deck: wave after wave, crashing ever louder and louder; dashing hope and spirit and solidarity each time ever more harshly and soundly…

Things go wrong, the sky falls in, the air is hard to breathe, the wind blows in huge gusts and the waves overwhelm the ship. The captain cannot be found so the crew wavers. Order is forgotten at a time of chaos: everyone panics and prays for the storm to subside. Sometimes it does but sometimes it doesn’t.

2 Aaron said to them: Remove your gold rings, the ones that are in the ears of your wives, sons and daughters; bring them to me. 3 They all removed the gold rings that were in their ears; they brought them to Aaron. 4 He took them from their hands; he molded them into a mask of a calf; they said—these are your gods Israel that brought you out of the land of Egypt!

Exodus 32

Adversity is like the challenge of an unexpected storm to test the mettle of the vessel, the crew and even the passengers. Will they overcome or succumb? Inescapable as adversity may be, hope often lies in the fervent prayer of those caught on board.

Ship being tossed on a stormy sea
Ship being tossed on a stormy sea by Jean Walker
From La Mer by Debussy

7 YHWH spoke to Moses: Go down because your people that I brought out from the land of have degenerated. … 10 Leave me now for I am so incensed that I might destroy them; then I will make you into a great nation. 11 Moses implored YHWH, his God saying: Why would YHWH be so incensed with your people that you brought out of Egypt with a great strength and an outstretched arm?

Exodus 32

Moses interceded and the danger receded. It wasn’t a golden calf that saved the people in the desert, but a sincere plea by a reverent and responsible leader. Moses was the same leader that would need to face many more disturbing challenges in the desert sojourn, but whose steadfast beliefs and determination would bring the mixed multitude out of slavery towards the Promised Land.

1 YHWH spoke to Moses: Go out from here, you and the people that you have brought out of the land of Egypt—to the land that I promised to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob—saying: I will give it to your offspring.

Exodus 33

The storm subsides and light shines upon us, we all find comfort again because we have become aware of Moses – the ultimate resolute and devoted leader.

Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021