When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” — Exodus 32:1
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tisa, which means “when you raise up,” from Exodus 30:11—34:35, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 18:20–39.
How is it possible that just after witnessing the great miracles of the Exodus, the children of Israel turned to idolatry just a few short chapters later? In the Song of the Sea, the Israelites had exclaimed: “He is my God, and I will praise him” (Exodus 15:2). And after an experience like that, they go and build the Golden Calf?
The reason for this dramatic turn of events is explained in Exodus 32:1: “When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us . . .’” The Jewish sages explain that the Israelites made a slight miscalculation in the 40 days and 40 nights that Moses would be up on Mount Sinai, and when he failed to appear when they thought he should, they panicked and lost faith.
The Hebrew word used in the verse to say that Moses was delayed is boshesh. The word shesh means the number “six.” The sages learn from this that Moses was but six hours late in coming down the mountain. Had the Israelites waited patiently for just six hours, this whole terrible affair could have been avoided.
This theme of patience, waiting and trusting in God’s timing, is a recurring theme throughout Scriptures. That’s why many rabbis point to this area as one of the main challenges we must overcome in order to perfect the world and usher in the messianic era. As Jews, we are reminded to practice patience every day. We say: “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the messiah – and even though he may tarry, I will wait for him every day!”
We all can practice patience and trust in our own way every single day. In life, there are two kinds of time: “my time” and “Divine time.” “My time” is when I think things should happen. Divine time is the perfect time for things to happen.
When we set our clocks to Divine time instead of “my time,” we will have repaired a great rift between ourselves and God, and we will live with greater peace, clarity, and closeness to God.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President