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Parashat Ki Tisa: Remembering the Love

After the sin of the golden calf, G-d informed Moshe of His decision to eradicate Beneh Yisrael and produce a new nation from Moshe. But Moshe intervened on the nation’s behalf, and pleaded to G-d to forgive the people. G-d accepted Moshe’s plea and rescinded the decree.

Moshe began his prayer for the people by saying, "Why should G-d be incensed at Your nation, which You took from the land Egypt with great strength and with a mighty hand?" (32:11). Surprisingly, Moshe here emphasizes the great miracles of the Exodus, the fact that G-d brought Beneh Yisrael out of Egypt "with great strength and with a mighty hand." Why would Moshe emphasize this point when pleading on the nation’s behalf? Seemingly, the miracles G-d had performed for the people made their betrayal more severe. After all He did for them, bringing supernatural plagues upon the Egyptians and splitting the sea to rescue them, they now bowed down to a graven image and proclaimed, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you from the land of Egypt." This was a grave act of betrayal. Why would Moshe emphasize the "great strength" of the Exodus in attempting to defend the people and obtain G-d’s forgiveness?

The Maggid of Duvna (Rav Yaakob Krantz, Lithuania, 1741-1804) explained Moshe’s plea by way of an analogy to a widower who was introduced by a matchmaker to an eligible single woman. After meeting several times, he decided he wanted to marry her, and so he proposed. She accepted the proposal, but said she could not get married until she paid off her debts from the small café that she ran. The man agreed, but after several weeks, the matchmaker advised him to pay the debts for his bride so they would not have to delay the wedding any further. And so the man approached the woman in her café and told her he would happily pay her debts, so they could get married. She consented, and the man asked that they proceed immediately to the Rabbi for their wedding ceremony and begin their new life together. The woman explained that she was in the middle of preparing pancakes for the shop, and they were not yet ready. But the man persisted, as he desired to marry her without any further delay. After seeing his insistence, the woman agreed to go get married before the pancakes were ready, and so she took them out of the pan, half baked, and placed them in her purse. Along the way to the Rabbi, they stopped by a store where the bride purchased new, lavish clothing. After she changed, the man took her old clothing and kept them in a bag. They got married and happily began their new life.

Several days later, however, as often happens, the new couple had an argument. The husband felt he was disrespected, and so he went to his bag and pulled out the wife’s old clothing.

"Look at what you were before I came along," he said. "You wore these old, simple clothing until you decided to marry me, and only because of me you’re able to afford beautiful clothing. And this is the way you treat me?"

The wife then went to her purse and took out the half-baked pancakes.

"Just remember," she said, "you were the one who was in a rush to get married. You could not wait. I didn’t go after you; you came after me. You could not wait even two minutes. That is how much you loved me, and I expected that you would always love me this much."

The man recalled how strong his love was for his wife, how badly he wanted to marry her, and stopped complaining.

The Maggid of Duvna explains that this was Moshe’s plea to G-d after the sin of the golden calf. As our Sages teach, the period of Egyptian bondage was to have endured for 400 years, but G-d brought the redemption sooner, after just 210 years, 190 years before the suffering was to have ended. Moshe thus reminded G-d, so-to-speak, of His great love for Beneh Yisrael. He "rushed" to release them from bondage and to bring them to Mount Sinai, where the "wedding" between G-d and Beneh Yisrael took place. G-d could not wait, as it were, to make a special covenant with our nation. And it was on account of this unique unbridled love that G-d has for Beneh Yisrael that Moshe asked for forgiveness.

G-d’s love for us is unconditional and everlasting, and He is therefore prepared to forgive us for our wrongdoing when return to Him with sincere remorse and heartfelt prayer.

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