Parsha Ki Tisa
Moshe conducts a census by counting each silver half-shekel donated by all men age twenty and over. Moshe is commanded to make a copper laver for the Mishkan. The women donate the necessary metal. The formula of the anointing oil is specified, and G-d instructs Moshe to use this oil only for dedicating the Mishkan, its vessels, Aharon and his sons. G-d selects Bezalel and Oholiav as master craftsmen for the Mishkan and its vessels.
The Jewish People are commanded to keep the Sabbath as an eternal sign that G-d made the world. Moshe receives the two Tablets of Testimony on which are written the Ten Commandments. The mixed multitude who left Egypt with the Jewish People panic when Moshe's descent seems delayed, and force Aharon to make a golden calf for them to worship. Aharon stalls, trying to delay them. G-d tells Moshe to return to the people immediately, threatening to destroy everyone and build a new nation from Moshe.
When Moshe sees the camp of idol-worship he smashes the tablets and he destroys the golden calf. The sons of Levi volunteer to punish the transgressors, executing 3,000 men. Moshe ascends the mountain to pray for forgiveness for the people, and G-d accepts his prayer.
Moshe sets up the Mishkan and G-d's cloud of glory returns. Moshe asks G-d to show him the rules by which he conducts the world, but is granted only a small portion of this request. G-d tells Moshe to hew new tablets and reveals to him the text of the prayer that will invoke Divine mercy. Idol worship, intermarriage and the combination of milk and meat are prohibited.
The laws of Pesach, the first-born, the first-fruits, Shabbat, Shavuot and Succot are taught. When Moshe descends with the second set of tablets, his face is luminous as a result of contact with the Divine.
The Torah states regarding the gathering of gold to make the Golden Calf:
"And Aharon (Moses' brother and the Cohen Gadol, High Priest) said to them, 'Remove the golden earrings which are on the ears of your wives, sons and daughters, and bring them to me." (Exodus 32:2)
How is it possible that Aharon would help make an idol?
The commentator, Daas Zkainim, explains that Aharon's intentions were righteous. This is what he said to himself: "Now that Moshe has not returned, if I will appoint Caleb or Nachson as the leader in Moshe's absence, when Moshe returns they will not be eager to give up their position of leadership. This will cause a major quarrel. If I do not appoint anyone as leader, they will choose a leader themselves and this will also cause a major quarrel. If I will assume leadership until Moshe returns, perhaps he will feel when he comes back that I tried to usurp his position. Therefore, until Moshe returns I will keep them busy with talk about making a meaningless golden calf. The women will be reluctant to give up their jewelry and therefore I will be able to stall for time."
This is an incredible lesson on judging people favorably! Next time you see someone doing something absolutely inexplicably despicable, before condemning him for his behavior, ask yourself, "What positive motivations and intentions could he possibly have had?" Maybe if you were to know his true motivations, you'd realize that he meant nothing wrong and even tried to prevent something negative from happening.
It happened as he drew near the camp and saw the calf and the dances that Moshe's anger flared up. He threw down the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. (Ex. 32:19)
God told Moshe that the Jewish People had sinned and fashioned a golden calf. Moshe came down from atop Mount Sinai and saw the golden calf, as well as the merriment and dancing which accompanied it. His anger flared up and he shattered the luchos - the tablets of the covenant. Why did Moshe not break the luchos as soon as God told him that the Jews had made an image?
When Moshe first heard that they had made for themselves a golden calf, he tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. A huge nation felt stranded in the wilderness. What would they feed their children the very next morning? Without a leader and an intermediary to God, how would they survive? He thought they made the idol out of desperation. But when he saw them dancing, he realized that they had not done so reluctantly at all; they enjoyed their worship of the idol, it was a part of them! He then realized that there was no justification for their deed and they did not deserve to have the luchot.
When a person does something with joy it becomes a part of him. The mind best absorbs what it finds pleasurable. It is for this reason that one of the 48 ways in which one acquires Torah is to study Torah with joy. When a person is joyous the mind expands and enables the Torah to take residence within him. However, when someone is sad the mind shrivels and can barely contain a thing. By studying Torah with joy and excitement, the Torah gets absorbed into your blood stream and becomes a part of you.