Volume 3 Issue 47
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Not often does G-d Almighty tell anybody to leave him alone. But then
again, Moshe isn't everybody.
This week, Moshe recounts the sad tale of the Golden Calf. Moshe had
promised to return from Mount Sinai after receiving the Torah in forty
days, but the Jews miscalculated. According to their calculations, he was
late. Fearing that Moshe would never return from his celestial mission,
the Jews made themselves a golden calf and worshipped it while proclaiming,
"this is our god that took us out of Egypt." Obviously, the calculations
and miscalculations of the Jewish People are not as simple as they appear
on the surface. That, however is an entirely different issue.
I'd like to focus in on the aftermath of the calamity of the Golden Calf.
Hashem actually wanted to destroy the Jewish Nation and rebuild a new folk
with Moshe, as its patriarchal leader. "Release me," said G-d, "and I will
destroy them and build a new nation from you" (Deuteronomy 9:14)).
Immediately after the words, "release me" Moshe sprung into action. In the
Book of Exodus, it details how Moshe pleaded, cajoled, and reasoned with
Hashem with a multitude of persuasive arguments that calmed His wrath. The
Jews were spared.
What is troubling is Moshe's chutzpah. Didn't Hashem specifically tell
him, "leave me alone"? What prompted him with the audacity to defy a
direct command of Hashem?
Herbert Tenzer served as a distinguished congressman from New York in the
1960s. More importantly, he was an observant Jew who was a proud activist
and was instrumental in providing relief for many Holocaust survivors. A
few months before his passing, some years ago, he related to me the
The energetic and often outspoken Rabbi Eliezer Silver of Cincinnati, Ohio
was a prominent force in the Vaad Hatzallah Rescue Committee. He worked
tirelessly throughout the terrible war years and their aftermath to save
and place the victims of Nazi depravity. In addition to his prominence in
the Jewish world, Rabbi Silver enjoyed a personal relationship with the
very powerful Senator Robert Taft of Ohio.
Rabbi Silver had a very difficult request that needed much political
pressure and persuasion to accomplish. He asked Mr. Tenzer to accompany
him to the Senator.
"Shenator Taft!" he exclaimed, mixing his distinct accent in which the s
would sound as sh, with a high pitched intoning of emotions. I have a very
important and difficult requesht!"
Rabbi Silver went on to plead his case of obtaining a certain number of
visas for some refugees who may not have met all the criteria. Senator
Taft looked nonchalant and non-committal. The Senator thought for a while
then grimaced. He slowly and carefully stretched his response. "It would
be arduous and burdensome," he began. "but technically," he continued,
implying all the while that he was not the least bit anxious to get his
hands dirty, " it can be done."
But Rabbi Silver did not hear anything except the last three words.
"IT CAN BE DONE?" He shouted with joy. "SHO DO IT!" Needless to say the
stunned Senator got to work immediately and obtained the visas for the
Moshe heard one line from Hashem, "leave me alone, and I will destroy
them." That was his cue. The Talmud in Berachos explains that hearing
those words, Moshe knew that now it all depended on him. The only way
Hashem would destroy His people was if Moshe left him alone. And he
didn't. Moshe badgered, cajoled, and pleaded with the Almighty and we were
My Rebbe once quoted legendary slugger Ted Williams, the last player to
achieve a batting average of over .400. "Every player gets one pitch that
he definitely can hit. To hit .400, don't miss that pitch." Instead of
recoiling at the words "release me" or "leave me be," Moshe saw his pitch.
And he hit it awfully hard.
In life there are many cues. This week Moshe teaches his nation that when
you get your cue, don't miss it. Even if it takes a little chutzpah.
Rabbi Mordecai Kamenetzky will be a featured guest speaker at the Homowack
Hotel for the Shabbos of Labor Day Weekend (1997). For reservations Call the
Homowack Hotel 1-800-243-4567 and mention Project Genesis.
If you enjoy the weekly Drasha, now you can receive the best of Drasha in book form!
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