Parshas Ki Sisa
Volume 6 Issue 21
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
In one of the most difficult portions of the Torah, and chapters in our
history, this week the Children of Israel make a Golden Calf and serve it.
The act warrants their annihilation, and Hashem threatens Moshe with just
that, adding that He is ready to build a nation from Moshe himself. "Hashem
said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold! it is a stiff-necked
people: And now, desist from Me. Let My anger flare up against them, and I
shall annihilate them, and I shall make you a great nation.’" (Exodus 32:9-10)
But Moshe beseeches Hashem to forgive the nation for the calamitous sin of
the Golden Calf, and Hashem acquiesces, offering an historic formula which
is the precursor to every prayer of penitence. Hashem entails the
supplication that is known as "the thirteen attributes of Hashem."
They include the words "Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious,
Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth…" (Exodus 34:6-7).
Those powerful, deep, and concise statements that embody anthropomorphic
qualities to an Omnipotent Creator contain significant meaning far beyond
What is astonishing is that almost immediately after Hashem forgives the
people, Moshe beseeches Hashem to accompany them for the precise reason
that Hashem was angered by them!
"If I have now found favor in Your eyes, my L-rd, let my L-rd go among us
-- for it is a stiff-necked people, and You shall forgive our iniquity and
error, and make us Your heritage." (Exodus 34:9)
Was it not stiff-neckedness that caused Hashem to want to annihilate them?
It had become a nuisance for most of those who strolled in the Swiss forest
in the early 1950s. Hikers would come home and spend time removing the
sticky cockleburs that had fastened to their clothing. But it was something
that their forebears had lived with for years and another hindrance that
nature had put in their way.
But George de Mestral did not look at the cockleburs that had snagged his
sweater as a nuisance. In fact, he realized that Divine genius played a
vital role in their physiology.
Returning home after a walk one afternoon, he took out a microscope to get
a better look at Hashem's prodigy. When he realized that the burs were
actually comprised of thousands of natural hooks that would engage
countless loops he realized that this was no nuisance of nature. Their
sticky nature was actually the way that these seed pods were transported to
find new breeding grounds. They would latch themselves to the fur of
animals and be transported.
De Mestral realized that he could carry this wisdom to the more mundane
world. And so with a system of a fuzzy felt and crocheted hooks, he
combined more than just two divergent materials. He also combined two
words, velvet and crochet, now employed in the lexicon and inventory of
both schoolchildren and rocket-scientists. He invented, or perhaps
introduced us to, Velcro®.
The Dubno Maggid explains that after Moshe heard the wondrous quality of
Unrestricted Compassion, he realized that Hashem was actually offering a
product that was well-tailored to our mortal needs. It was in fact Moshe's
biggest argument for Hashem to accompany His nation.
"Angels don't need those attributes! It is the fallible human who needs
that ever-lasting, unceasing mercy! It is only because we are stiff-necked
that we need Your unending kindness!"
That is why after Moshe heard Hashem's argument, followed by His
attributes, he presented his plea for Divine accompaniment.
Often, we do not take advantage of the great goodness of Hashem. We leave
His attributes in heaven, distancing our mundane needs from His
all-powerful abilities. Moshe teaches us that it is distinctly our
capriciousness and mortality that needs His omnipotence. We must realize
that the attributes of Hashem are specifically assigned to sustain His nation.
And all we have to do is utilize that unceasing, unyielding, and
everlasting product to our advantage. Good Shabbos
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Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
Yeshiva of South Shore.
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