- Moses takes a census of the Israelites and collects a half-shekel from each person (30:11-16)
- God tells Moses to construct a water basin and to prepare anointing oil and incense for the ordination of the priests. Bezalel and Oholiab, skilled artisans, are assigned to make objects for the priests and the Tabernacle. (30:17-31:11)
- The Israelites are instructed to keep Shabbat as a sign of their covenant with God. God gives Moses the two tablets of the Pact. (31:12-18)
- The Israelites ask Aaron to build them a Golden Calf. Moses implores God not to destroy the people and then breaks the two tablets of the Pact on which the Ten Commandments are written when he sees the idol. God punishes the Israelites by means of a plague. (32:1-35)
- Moses goes up the mountain with a blank set of tablets for another 40 days so that God will again inscribe the Ten Commandments. Other laws, including the edict to observe the Pilgrimage Festivals, are also revealed. (34:1-28)
- Moses comes down from the mountain with a radiant face. (34:29-35)
By Bill Schwartz
Moses went up to Mount Sinai to speak with G-d.
G-d gave Moses many orders on how to mix spices and where to place them. This took a very long time and the Israelites were getting restless. They went to Aaron, Moses’ brother and High Priest, and said “We don’t know what happened to Moses.” Aaron replied “Bring me all the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, your daughters.” The Israelites did what they were told and Aaron melted the gold and cast it into a golden calf.
Aaron then said “This is your G-d O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The next day they had a great festival.
Why did Aaron do this? Was this his way to try to keep the people content until Moses came down from the mountain? How could the Israelites forget so quickly the power of G-d? This was still the same people who had witnessed the Ten Plagues and the parting of the sea. Why did they follow Aaron’s lead and so quickly abandon their trust in G-d?
Do the Jewish people, collectively, have such a short memory?
Our history is filled with events that make me wonder if we ever do learn from our own history. In spite of a repeated history of near-annihilation we become easily complacent. History has taught us that we are our own best defense yet many of us don’t acknowledge the importance of Israel’s existence. Is it short memory or are we, as the Israelites of the Exodus did, turning our backs on G-d?
This past Friday evening our Kabbalat Shabbat was led by the Zayin class. They were asked to research their family history and, at Shabbat services, they told us where their ancestors came from. A few of the students had grandparents who were Holocaust Survivors.
Cantor Ellis reminded them that they were the last generation who would personally know someone who had survived the Holocaust. He told them that it was their duty to pass on the story of what happened to our people because, if they didn’t, the world would either deny or forget.
The Israelites of the Exodus forgot all that G-d had done for them in their own lifetime. Within a matter of weeks. Will the Jews of today forget what was done to them in some of our own lifetimes?
Only if we remember, and only if we honor the sacred trust that G-d put into our hands when he gave us the Land of Israel, can we ensure that our people will continue to thrive.