(shutterstock) shutterstock
older couple


Moses teaches us that no matter how committed we are to an opinion or position in an argument,  the relationship is always more important than the disagreement.

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is “Ki Tisa” (Exodus 30:11-34:35) and in it we read the infamous and very dramatic episode of the Golden Calf.

I am sure that most readers are familiar with the custom at a Jewish wedding of the groom breaking a glass at the conclusion of the wedding ceremony. This is performed with a wine glass, or sometimes a light bulb, which is wrapped up well and placed on the ground. At the appropriate time, the groom smashes the glass with his foot signaling the conclusion of the ceremony at which time celebration breaks out. (It is interesting to note that in Israel, the breaking of the glass is often done in the middle of the ceremony, not at its end).

It is explained that a glass is broken at a wedding in order to recall the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Indeed, there are may lifecycle events in which we are required to remember the destruction of the Temple. As it says in Psalms, “I will put Jerusalem above my greatest joy.”

However, there is another, much lesser known, explanation for the braking of a glass at a wedding. According to other sages, a glass is broken in order to remember that Moses smashed the Ten Commandments when he came down from Mount Sinai and saw the Golden Calf.

The question is asked: why do a bride and groom need to be reminded of the sin of the Golden Calf at their wedding, the happiest day of their lives?

The answer, it is explained, is that Moses’ act of smashing the Tablets contains the secrets to a successful marriage. In fact, at the very end of the Torah we are told that Moses had a “strong hand” and “awesome power,” and performed his wonders “before the eyes of all Israel.” (Deut 34:12)

It is explained that the “strong hand” refers to receiving the Ten Commandments, the “awesome power” refers to the miracles he performed in the desert, and “before the eyes of all Israel” refers to the smashing of the Ten Commandments. Yes, as Moses is about to die, the Torah praises him for smashing the Ten Commandments! Why is Moses praised so highly for this? What’s going on over here?

The answer is that it took tremendous strength for Moses to break the Tablets. Moses was lovingly involved in the reception, preparation, and delivery of the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. Nobody wants to destroy something they so loving worked on or were involved with.

Moses was on that mountain for 40 days and 40 nights. He did not eat or drink during this time. He was devoted to the mission of bringing the Torah to the Jewish people. But when he came down from the mountain and saw the great sin that the people had committed…he did not hesitate. The Jewish people did not deserve the Torah and so he wasn’t going to give it to them no matter how dedicated he had been to the project. It took a tremendous amount of strength to destroy the tablets. But it was what was needed to be done.

Marriage is similar. Sometimes, no matter what one spouse has decided and planned, the plans need to go into the garbage. Sometimes no matter how right spouses feel in an argument, they need to drop the fight and walk away.

Sometimes you’ve got to say that the other spouse is right. Sometimes you realize that even though you invested much energy into a project, or even into a good argument, you’ve got to let it go.

Moses walked away. The breaking of the glass reminds us that sometimes we need to do things in life that are not comfortable or that were not as planned. And that is the secret of a good marriage! Walk away, let things cool down. You’ll always have your chance at a second set of “tablets.”

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.