Messages from Cantor Hanan Leberman
Parashat Ki Tisa
February 18th, 2022
17 Adar 5782
Candle Lighting: 5:18 p.m.
The Gift of the Broken Commandments
I was only six years old when I first learned the gift of the positive commandment of repentance.
I was with my father at a grocery store, and I wanted a pack of gum. My father, for reasons I now understand as a parent, didn’t want me having an entire pack of gum, so he said “no.” Knowing that stealing wasn’t a good thing, I swiped the packet of gum anyway and buried it deep in my pockets. When I got home, I went to my room and immediately opened the pack and started chewing.
A couple minutes later, I decided to go play outside with my brothers. As I was walking out of the house loudly chewing my spoils, my father stopped me. He asked me, “Where did you get that gum?” I was paralyzed with fear. I had two options: tell a lie or tell the truth. Before I could make my decision, my father said, “You won’t get in trouble if you tell the truth.” I told him the truth and my frightened imagination could already hear the police sirens coming. He told me that I needed to do the right thing - return the rest of the gum to the store and say sorry.
We got into the car and we drove back. The entire way, I thought that as soon as I admitted to the clerk that I stole the gum he would call the authorities and they would take me to jail.
I arrived at the store and my father took me to the cashier. I held out the packet of gum that had already been opened and said, “I am sorry I stole this gum from you.” The man behind the counter looked at me in amazement. He took the gum and said, “You are a brave kid.”
Right afterwards, my father drove me to get ice cream and told me that I did a great Mitzvah (commandment) called Teshuvah (repentance), and that telling the truth is always the right thing.
So how does this story relate to this week’s portion, Ki Tisa?
When Moses sees the People of Israel worshiping the golden calf, he breaks the Ten Commandments; then, God forgives the People of Israel, and Moses and God recreate the Ten Commandments. However, even though the People of Israel are granted forgiveness from God, we never rid ourselves of the Commandments that were broken: they are kept in the Ark of the Covenant, the holiest of places, with the intact Commandments.
We can only achieve our holiest selves when we accept our past and hold the rocky road that led us to where we are today in our hearts, our Holy of Holies.
Almost every day I remember the story above like broken tablets in my heart. When I tell the truth in hard times, or when I fulfill the Mitzvah of repentance and I am forgiven, I am reminded of the sweetness and responsibility of forgiveness and Teshuvah that the broken Commandments represent.
Please join us this Shabbat morning for a special extended Pesukei D'Zimrah with new and exciting melodies.
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