By: Rabbi Mendy Wolf
Picture this: You’re at the classic 50th anniversary party for a couple you know – wine, candles, roses and all. Everyone is having a grand time sharing memories and perusing photos. Suddenly, the celebrated husband stands up and begins describing the mid-life crisis he had experienced many years before. He reminds the crowd of how rough things got with his relationship, and how he and his wife separated for a while.
Everyone is scratching their heads. To call the guy’s remarks inappropriate would be a gross understatement. Outrageous might be more on target. That’s what he has to talk about at his golden anniversary?!
This may be a ridiculous scenario, but the story of Moses is far from funny – and it’s true, too. Celebrating the role of this great leader of the Jewish people at the conclusion of his life, the Torah highlights an event we would expect to be swept under the rug. The biography of the man whose sole purpose was enhancing the relationship between G-d and His nation finishes with a discussion of how he disrupted that very bond by breaking the Tablets at Mt. Sinai! And thus the Torah concludes, leaving us with a picture of Moses smashing the symbol of all that he had stood for!
If the Torah had been written by man, it would probably conclude with some grand description of one of Moses’ most miraculous accomplishments. Perhaps the Exodus would be chosen; maybe it would be the Splitting of the Reed Sea. Not this.
But there are no mistakes in the Torah. And actually, not only does the breaking of the Tablets not diminish from the greatness of Israel’s quintessential leader; it is actually the greatest testament to it. Smashing those stones was the single most significant action Moses performed on behalf of his people.
You see, originally, our relationship with G-d was based on unrealistic expectations. We accepted the Torah. We promised to be perfect. We were supposed to be perfect. We were like that beautiful, flawless bride, whose true personality is concealed beneath layers of makeup. Our imperfections were invisible in the glow of young romance.
And alas, soon after the wedding ceremony, the true wife emerged. We made mistakes. We messed up – quite badly, in fact. We were far from perfect. And now the marriage was on the rocks. With disaster looming, Moses, the matchmaker, realized that something drastic had to be done. He lifted the contract that bound the Jewish people to this unrealistic relationship and threw it to the ground.
As the sapphire stones shattered into thousands of pieces, the possibility was created for a new start. After much introspection and reconciliation, we would be given the opportunity to enter the marriage anew. This time, though, G-d was accepting us for who we really were. Knowing we were imperfect and might make mistakes, He wanted us nevertheless. It’s not that G-d was going to ignore the problems; rather, He was creating a space for our humanness, allowing for forgiveness of our errors and enabling us to grow from our mistakes.
And thus, the Torah concludes, leaving us with the picture of Moses smashing the unrealistic expectations that determined our failure. And we are empowered with the understanding that G-d recognizes our challenges and supports our efforts to change and grow.
Adopt G-d’s attitude. Believe that you can succeed – one small step at time.
Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization which promotes Jewish values throughout the business community in NYC. R’ Mendy is a sought after teacher and lecturer and resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and family. Contact Rabbi Mendy to book him to speak or with feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.