These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

[PCJE Dvar Torah] Brokenness and Radiance by Heather Kantrowitz

Posted on February 28, 2013 by Heather Kantrowitz

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gcParshat Ki Tissa contains a myriad of events, most notably, the incident of the Golden Calf. When Moses descends Mount Sinai after 40 days and nights in preparation for receiving the 10 Commandments, he discovers the people dancing around this molten calf. He then “hurled the tablets from his hand and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.” Later on in the parsha, Moses once again ascends the mountain to receive a new set of tablets from God.

btOne of the events that I wondered about as I read this parsha is what happened to the broken tablets. I assumed they were inherently holy, being inscribed by the finger of God. I also rationalized that shattered tablets would serve no functional purpose – so what became of them?

In Talmud Bavli Berakhot 8b, we learn that the broken tablets were carried in the Ark along with the new, complete set. In the context of the Talmud, this is referring to an elderly scholar who forgot his learning, and how he should not just be “cast aside” as something that is useless and rejected. While we may not have senile scholars to dispose of, we do all have our own broken tablets to manage.

bWe all have brokenness that we carry inside of us. Some of us may try to ignore it, or bury it deep inside of us. But I think we can take a lesson from the Israelites who did not abandon their broken tablets, the scars of their past; they continued to carry around their brokenness through the wilderness. It would have been easy to discard the extra weight of the tablets, yet the Israelites continued to lug them around on their journey because they recognized the value in holding on to the shattered pieces of their history. We should also strive to see the holiness within our fractured past, and to proudly bear the load of our own personal broken tablets, no matter how burdensome they may be.

rmIn a wholly different section of our parsha, we learn that Moses’s face was radiant after speaking with God. While I don’t have experience speaking with God (yet!), I have recently had an experience where my face was radiant. On Tuesday, I received the amazing news that I will be spending next year in the PEP program here at Pardes. The opportunity to live and learn here for another year is nothing short of incredible. When I think about where my knowledge level was in August compared to where it is now, I can only imagine the level my learning will be at next June. In short, my face has not stopped glowing with the possibilities of what this next year is going to bring. Shabbat Shalom!