Friday, September 28, 2018 /19 Tishrei, 5778
Parashat Hol HaMo-eid Sukkot Exodus 33:12-34:26
“Like” does not connote “identical.”
To explain: this week in our Shabbat Sukkot, we read a special Torah assignment from the Book of Exodus, describing the episode of the Golden Calf.
We know that, amid his anger at the people for crafting the Golden Calf while he was atop Mt. Sinai to receive the Law from God, Moses descended the mountain and smashed the Ten Commandments, destroying both the tablets of the Law, and the idol. But, what followed afterwards?
After punishing the miscreants, Moses ascended the mountain again, and God said to him, “Hew yourself two tablets of stone like the first…” In short, Moses was told to replace what he had broken. Yet, the verse is clear: it says to make new tablets “like the first.” However, “like” does not mean identical.
Rarely, if ever, do replacement items replicate those which had come before. The new car is not like the old, and the repairs from the car accident rarely measure up to how the car looked, originally. Similarly, the new dentist or hair stylist may not compare to the previous ones, and the new puppy is not like the old.
“Like” only means “like.” It is important when engaging in the replacement business, to expect and entertain the possibility, if not the likelihood, that the next item or person will differ from the last. It is true in dentist, stylists, puppies and cars, and so, too, with synagogue leaders, and rabbis. We are all alike, in that we have sufficient training, deep commitments, devotion to the Jewish community, and probably strong work ethics. Yet, that is where the “like” may cease. The rest may differ and vary greatly – and I submit – should differ and vary greatly. That is the richness of the rabbinate, and of synagogues, as well.
Moses was not told to go up the mountain and replicate what had been lost. Rather, he was told to hew tablets “like the first.”
If they were different in some ways, well, so be it!
Shabbat Shalom and Hag Sameah,
Rabbi Doug Kohn