A Drash for Hol HaMoed Sukkot 5769 (2008)
by Marc Mangel
Question: Why do we read this portion of Ki Tissa on Hol Ha Moed Sukkot?
Answer: Four parts, a kind of PARDES
• Sukkot is mentioned briefly at the very end of the reading (Ch 34 v22 ff)
• This entire week in the Amidah we say “Hag Sukkot, a Season of Our Rejoicing”. What are we rejoicing? Forgiveness and Ki Tissa is about the forgiveness by God of the sin of the Golden calf. This is the classical interpretation.
• The 13 attributes of God are in this reading. We have, of course, read them numerous times recently in our liturgy “The Lord is ever-present, all merciful, gracious compassionate, patient, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, treasuring up love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sing, and pardoning the penitent.”
• But this is actually a redaction of the Ch 34, V 7. Here is the rest: “…but does not absolve completely. He remembers the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and upon the grandchildren, upon the third and fourth (generations).”
•The Rabbis removed this part when they inserted the 13 attributes into the liturgy.
• But we read them today as a reminder: God is gracious and forgiving but this does not give us license to misbehave. And our behavior is felt across the generations.
• An example: we raise our children in response to how we were raised by our parents, who responded to how they were raised. Our children to our grand parents: 4 generations.
• The 13 attributes are said when Moses is in the cleft of the rock and God passes by him (Ch 34, v 5: HaShem desended in a cloud and stood with him there and he called with the Name of HaShem. HaShem passed before him).
• What was it like when God passed before Moses? We, of course, don’t know. But it was likely not still but rather windy.
• We have had unseasonably calm weather this week. The next time you are in a Sukkah and it is windy, don’t worry about the Schach blowing off or about the walls standing.
So, why do we read this portion on Hol HaMoed Sukkot:
1) Because Sukkot is mentioned in the Torah
2) Because God forgave the Israelites for the Golden calf
3) To remind us of the importance of our behavior, even though God is forgiving
4) To connect us in a visceral way to HaShem.