13 Reasons Why: Ki Tisa 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What adjectives would you use to describe yourself? Are they the same adjectives others would use to describe you?

After the incident of the Golden Calf, Moses asks to see God — and God responds with a brief glimpse, plus a number of important adjectives, known to us as the 13 Attributes of God:

The Pitch: “Adonai passed before him and proclaimed, ‘Adonai! Adonai! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin – yet not remitting all punishment, but visiting the iniquity of parents upon children and children’s children, upon the third and fourth generations.’” – Exodus 34:6-7

Swing #1: “Like a rainbow, the future is open and may be beautiful, but there are no guarantees as to where it will lead. What is guaranteed is what Moses sought after the Golden Calf episode – that man may continue to test his faith against God’s promise.” – Aaron Wildavsky, Moses as Political Leader

Swing #2: “Moses request to see God’s ‘glory’ but is refused permission. Instead, God determines to have his ‘goodness’ pass before Moses, and at the same time he will proclaim his name. Moses is allowed to see Yahweh’s back but not his face. Here, the word kavod seems to be used to parallel panim in the divine presence. That it is not used in the sense of physical presence is clear from the fact that Moses is denied the right to see God’s kavod but is allowed to see his back and hand. More important, however, is the fact that Yahweh freely and graciously proclaims his name to Moses and reveals his goodness (i.e., attributes). … The revelation of Yahweh’s Name and Moses’ response in Exodus 34:6-9 show that God is gracious, merciful, and forgiving but is at the same time ‘other.’ So the use of kavod here is not concerned with expressing an anthropomorphic understanding of God but with resolving the tension raised by the holiness of Yahweh on the one hand and the reality of human sin on the other. Similarly, the use of shem is to show that God will continue to be with his people precisely because he is the kind of God he is (i.e., gracious and forgiving).” – Peter T. Vogt, Deuteronomic Theology and the Significance of Torah: A Reappraisal

Swing #3: “‘The Lord! The Lord!’ [The repetition of the Name implies that God’s] attribute of compassion is the same before one might transgress and after one might transgress and seek to do repentance.” – Rashi

Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators believe is the intent of God’s self-description? Is God being revealing, or is God hiding — or perhaps a bit of both? Does God owe Moses a more intimate relationship? How can we be sure that we truly understand someone else? Does God want to be truly understood?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: One thing we can be sure of: We at Emanu-El truly know Pearl and Warren Hyman, who have given so much of themselves to our synagogue, including, most recently, one of our lobby windows. Join us at services tomorrow morning to honor and thank them on the occasion of their 70th wedding anniversary.

The Big Inning at the End: A paradox of modern sports fans is the desire to know our favorite athlete well. Many of us demand that they be accessible via social media and the traditional press. Should this be part of an athlete’s job description? What happens when we get a close look at an athlete’s life, and we don’t like what we see?

Shabbat Shalom!