What excites us?

The Almighty informs Moses that the people have built a molten calf, are bowing to it, bringing sacrifices to it and tells him to go down to see for himself. (Exodus 32:7-8). Moses descends from the mountain with the two tablets in his hands and is so shocked by what he sees that he smashes the tablets at the foot of the mountain (verse 19).

It’s hard to understand why Moses is so upset by what he saw since God told him exactly what the people were doing. Why was he so shocked?

Well, God doesn’t tell him exactly what was going on. In reading the text of what Moses actually sees, there is one word that doesn’t appear in God’s description of the goings on. It was the dancing! It was one thing for the people to be doing the wrong thing – but for them to be into it, celebrating their sin – that was too much for Moses.

The Talmud suggests that the Jewish people faced annihilation at the hands of Haman in the Purim story because they enjoyed themselves at the party thrown by Achashverosh (Megillah 12a). The commentaries point out that if they had just gone and eaten because it would have been dangerous to not go – they could have been excused. But they didn’t feel bad about having to go – they thoroughly enjoyed themselves! That was the problem.

Deuteronomy 28 describes the great punishments that would await the Jewish people if we stray from God. One climactic statement gives the bottom line for why we would face calamities: Because you didn’t serve God with joy and goodness of heart…(verse 47). It is hard to understand how we would face such dire punishments for not serving God with enough joy.

The Kotzker Rebbe, however, spins the passage in a novel way: Because your not serving God was with joy…” It is one thing not to serve God. But to be thrilled not to serve Him – that’s asking for trouble.

Sharing is caring!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

2 Responses

  1. It is one thing not to serve God. But to be thrilled not to serve Him – that’s asking for trouble…..We have to serve Hashem with joy even when facing misfortune?

    1. According to the Kotzker Rebbe, who you reference in the first part of your comment, the standard is to at least never be thrilled and excited about NOT serving God. The simple meaning of the verse itself seems to expect that we will always serve God with joy – even when going through difficult times in life. It does seem like a high bar – but countless Jews throughout history did just that. There is a massive literature that has been written about how Jews in the concentration camps eagerly and lovingly sought to obey God’s commandments and to serve Him with all their hearts.

Leave a Reply

Don’t Stop Here

More To Explore

Inner light

“Each of us must know that a candle burns within us. A unique candle with its own distinct light. Each of us must understand that

Opening our hand

The merit of Tzedaka is so great that I am happy to give to 100 beggars even if only one might actually be needy. Some

Growing from failure

“The righteous will fall seven times and get up…” (Proverbs 24:16) We’re not learning here that a righteous person is one who will repeatedly get

contact

%d bloggers like this: