• Gabbai

Ki Tisa – Urban Warfare

Last week we had a small taste from the Sfat Emet commentary on the Torah, written by the Rebbe of Ger. It is worthwhile to draw again from the insight in this work to understand the difficult episode of the Golden Calf, about which we read in Ki Tisa.

Just weeks ago the nation stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai, experiencing the great revelation that launched Judaism into a formal religion, establishing the creed of our nation. As the leader of the nation Moses had to go on a training seminar to gain an in-depth understanding of the myriad laws and their meanings so he could properly transmit this tradition to the people. Moses departed, after assuring the people he would return after 40 days. Whether due to some miscalculation or some other error many people began to panic at the end of this time. They demanded a replacement for Moses, an icon they could relate to as a medium and a symbol of their relationship to God.

To us readers this is incomprehensible. Just weeks earlier the Big Ten were uttered in the presence of everyone, including the Mitzvah or having no images with which to worship. How could this, a direct violation of that commandment, transpire so soon?

The Torah relates that God informed Moses that he must descend from the mountain, “for your people have become corrupt… they have made a molten calf and have worshipped it…” (Ex 32:7-8)

When Moses encountered Joshua waiting for him near the foot of the mountain Joshua, unaware of the details, reported that a “sound of war is in the camp.” Here the Sfat Emet steps in with his comments. A sound of war? Why does Joshua describe the celebratory spounds emenating from the camp as a sound of war? In fact, Moses immediately replies that there is no sound of defeat or victory – which would be the result of a war – rather a sound of singing was coming from the camp.