Dear Readers,

I remember when my young daughter willfully did something against my explicit instruction. She averted her gaze trying to deny her act or perhaps trying to take it back. She feared anger, rejection, and disappointment. But most of all, she feared that this small misdeed would create a separation between us—an end to the loving relationship she cherished.

So we sat down and talked about mistakes, about owning up to them and moving forward. We discussed how perfection is an impossible goal, and how she is so much more than the sum total of her choices.

And then we talked about our relationship, and how my love for her is not dependent on her actions. The love is constant, unconditional. Even when I’m displeased, the love may be hidden, but it is just as strong. Most importantly, we spoke about how facing mistakes together helps us grow closer.

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tissa, the Jewish people commited the grave sin of worshipping the Golden Calf after having witnessed G‑d’s greatest revelations at Sinai.

Moses turned and descended from the mountain with the two Tablets of Testimony in his hands. As he drew near the camp, he saw the calf and the dances. Moses’ anger burned, he threw down the Tablets from his hands and shattered them . . . (Ex. 32:19)

Only after Moses’s excessive supplications and the nation’s repentance was he commanded to carve out the second set of tablets. So serious was the Jewish people’s transgression that the Talmud (Sanhedrin 102) declares: “There is no misfortune that doesn’t have in it something of the Golden Calf.”

Yet, the name of this portion, Ki Tissa, literally means “when you raise up” (referring to a census of “raising heads”), implying that the Jewish people were actually elevated through this episode.

How is it possible for a grave sin to elevate?

The paradox of sin is that teshuvah, repentance, makes it possible to forge a greater connection with G‑d.

Before sinning, our relationship with G‑d need only be strong enough to keep us on track. After we sin, we realize that the enticement of sin meant more to us than our commitment. We then must search deeper within ourselves to develop a stronger relationship with G‑d whereby He means more to us than our indulgence.

Through teshuvah, our failings can be exploited and redirected positively.

The Talmud (Nedarim 22b) states: “Had Israel not sinned with the Golden Calf, they would have received only the Five Books of Moses and the book of Joshua. Why? Because ‘Much wisdom comes through much grief.’ ”(Ecc. 1:18)

Though we strive to have a relationship with G‑d in which we do not fail, mistakes are inevitable. Let’s use our mistakes to “to raise ourselves up” and develop an even deeper connection with G‑d.

The sin of the Golden Calf teaches us that mistakes—with G‑d and with our loved ones—can be opportunities to carve out “second tablets,” second chances, replete with even greater potential.

Chana Weisberg
Editor, TJW