Posted on March 9, 2012 by Barer
In reading this week’s parsha, which describes the events surrounding the sin of the Golden Calf, one question continued to nag at me. Why does Moshe break the tablets upon seeing the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf? The answer many of us grew up with is that Moshe came upon the scene and was so shocked that he threw down the tablets in anger/disgust/disbelief. However, this does not seem to be fully supported by the text, as Hashem tells Moshe what is happening before he goes down the mountain (Shmot 32:7-8). If Moshe knew before he arrived at the camp at the base of the mountain that the Israelites were sinning egregiously, why then was there a need to break the tablets, literally written by Hashem? One answer offered by our friendly beit midrash rabbi is that there is a big difference between being told about something and seeing it with your own eyes. Even though Moshe heard of the terrible events occurring at the foot of the mountain, he was not prepared for the sight – matching the facts Hashem gave him – that met his eyes. This seems to be supported in the story of Purim as well, as Haman seems to ride by Mordechai on his horse without noticing that Mordechai is not bowing down, and only later, after hearing of it, and then seeing it with his own eyes, does Haman get so angry that he decides a genocidal decree is in order (Esther 3:1-5).
To see and believe
Is a step beyond hearing
Proceed with caution