A Golden Opportunity

Friday, 5 March, 2021 - 9:35 am

As winter gives way to spring, we read in the Torah portion of Ki Tisa about the Sin of the Golden Calf.

Amazingly, in response to one of the most shameful events in Jewish history, we merited one of the greatest revelations. Firstly, once forgiven, the Jews received the second Tablets, which were – in many respects – greater than the first Tablets.

Additionally, G-d revealed the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy – which could always be invoked to attain G-d’s forgiveness.

The English word “forgive” is associated with the notion of granting completely, such as granting pardon in the act of forgiveness.

In the Torah, however, the term forgiveness – as it appears in the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy – is presented literally as lifting up sin (noseh avon). It isn’t simply about granting clemency. Rather, it is a radical act of transformation.

As the Chassidic Masters put it, the penultimate degree of forgiveness is that G-d elevates the sin and transforms it into holiness. The sparks of energy contained within the sin are literally uplifted to their source.

Although sinful acts themselves are unworthy of elevation, nonetheless G-d promises that He will elevate the sin in response to proper teshuva. This is because every act is driven by desire or conviction. The power and energy that we invest into sin – in and of itself – is not inherently negative. It was used for an evil act. But, it could have been used for a holy act. This energy has the potential to be transformed.

Indeed, this is the great virtue of teshuva, repenting and restoring our relationship with Hashem. When we return to G-d, we have also redirected and restored our energy to its proper source. It’s now worthy of elevation.

Although the golden calf was a terrible sin, the passionate energies invested into it were redirected through teshuva. This brought an even greater elevation – and revelation – than before.

Next time you look at a past mistake or failure, don’t suffice with moving away from it. Forgiveness is an insufficient translation for our true goal of uplifting sin. Use it as a catalyst for an even deeper relationship with others and with G-d. G-d will take care of the rest.

It wasn’t just a golden calf. It was a golden opportunity.

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