Idolatry. Sexual immorality. Murder. The description of the events of the Golden Calf in this week’s portion sounds like the outline for a new cable television series. By the end of the portion, the main characters of Aaron and the Hebrews are forgiven and allowed to keep going on their journey. But how? Isn’t the crime of the Golden Calf so great that it is unforgivable? How can we be forgiven — whether as a community or as an individual — for mistakes that are so overwhelming?
Parashat Ki Tisa tells us that "the Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another." (Exodus 33:11) We also hear God telling Moses, "I have singled you out by name, and you have indeed gained My favor" (Exodus 33:12). In Numbers 12:8, God explains that only with Moses does communication occur "mouth to mouth." And the expression "face to face" (panim el panim) recurs in Deuteronomy 34:10, as both Moses' life and the Torah reach their conclusion: "Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses -- whom the Lord singled out, face to face."
It was my third funeral of the week, and I was tired of death. I thought this one would be easier than the others,since it was an elderly woman who suffered terribly and truly wanted to die. Her name was Sarah; her only relatives left were her nephew, Harry, and his son, Joel.