The Clarity of Broken Leadership

In Eikev, this week’s Torah portion, we revisit the Golden Calf incident. Moshe is up on the Mountain getting the Ten Commandments from God and when he comes down with the two Tablets he sees that the Israelites had created an idolatrous Golden Calf to worship. First he breaks the Tablets and then he grinds up the Golden Calf. What was so bad about creating this idol? No one got hurt. Also it is noteworthy that Moshe destroys both the Tablets a gift from God and the Golden Calf, but why?

I get that we need to remove the Golden Calf so destruction makes sense. There was something alluring about the idol. While it exist there is a temptation to use it. I do not understand is why Moshe destroyed the Tablets as well. It was a manifestation of the will of a God with whom it was so hard to connect. Can you image spending 40 days straight working on something and than just tossing it in the trash?

In creating the Golden Calf the Israelites proved that they might do anything as a group. Their group-think created a context where many bad things could happen. It would just take one bad egg to act on the spirit of the group and anything was possible. Moshe broke the God-given Tablets to awaken the people of the logical ends of their idolatry. He broke the Tablets to remind them that his lot with with them. While he worked for 40 days to get the Tablets we would work for 40 years for his people. He had to give up his personal accomplishments for the sake of their redemption. Leadership is hard, but clarity of mission will always help us fix that which has been broken.

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