I’m going to share with you two things that maybe I shouldn’t share with college students. One is from the Medrash on the Golden Calf, the other is the Rebbe’s commentary on a classic piece of Zohar. I don’t want you to take it the wrong way or get the wrong idea. But I think you can handle it. You up to this folks?
The first comes from a Medrash that asks: Why did Moshe break the Tablets when he saw the Jews worshipping the Golden Calf? The Medrash explains, it was in defense of the Jewish people. Now, how does breaking the Tablets help the Jews?
The Giving of the Torah is often compared to a marriage. G-d is the groom, the Jewish people are the bride. There are all kinds of interesting parallels in the details. The Luchot Tablets was the Ketubah. A bride and groom are supposed to be devoted to each other. But the Jews had an affair. They forgot about G-d and got enamored with the Golden Calf. They committed adultery.
But wait! They weren’t married yet! Moses was bringing the Ketubah, the Luchot Tablets, from the groom to the bride and it hadn’t reached the bride yet.
The Medrash said that Moses thought quickly: Better I break the tablets and destroy the Ketubah, this way the Jews will be like a girlfriend having an affair, and not a married woman. It’s not pretty either way, but at least it won’t be adultery. And so Moses broke the tablets.
I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. The point of the Medrash isn’t that it’s OK for single folks to mess around. But it does teach us a lot a lot about Moses – and about ourselves as Jews. If you can get the message here, you get a glimpse into Jewish leadership and to what it means to be a Jew.
No one was more attached to Torah than Moses. No one understood the tragedy of the Golden Calf more than he did. But more than anything else, Moses was devoted to the Jewish people.
Moses was like a good parent who wants the best for us, who tries for us, who does everything so that we can succeed. And when we mess up, of course our parents get upset, they’re disappointed, but they are still here for us. And good parents will never let dreams of their child’s success get in the way of the unconditional love parents have for their kids.
This is very similar to the Rebbe’s approach, in fact what I am telling you now is how the Rebbe taught us this Medrash. On one hand the Rebbe instilled within us a great love for Judaism. And at the same time a great love for Jews. Even when Jews don’t do Judaism, the Rebbe said: don’t let that get in the way of our love for Jews.
In 1990 and 1991 the Rebbe used a visual to illustrate this point.
The Zohar speaks of the connection between three things: G-d, the Torah and the Jewish People. The Zohar uses knots as the connector. But all you need is two knots to connect three things. So why does the Zohar speak of 3 knots that connect G-d, Torah and the Jewish People?
The Rebbe explains this shows us that it’s like a loop, it is connected on both ends. Jews connect to G-d through Torah, but they also connect to G-d just by being Jews.
Ah, this is another thing I maybe shouldn’t have shared with college students. You might get the wrong idea, wow – I can connect to G-d without Torah, so I’ll skip the Torah. OK, OK, that’s obviously not the point. This is one of those deep Chassidic paradoxes that you can understand a little after lots and lots of study. It’s too much to explain right now.
But here’s the takeaway message for tonight: These 3 mystical knots mean that we as Jews are deeply and intrinsically connected to G-d, and nothing we do or don’t do can sever that deep connection.
Like the Chabad on Campus slogan: where Every Jew is Family. That’s the Rebbe’s vision. Family is family, whether you are rich or poor, a success or a failure, regardless. And it’s the same way with the Jewish people: A Jew is a Jew is a Jew.
Now obviously, that’s no license to rob a bank, be cruel to your parents or be a horrible husband. And the Rebbe isn’t saying that Jews don’t need to do any Mitzvot to connect with G-d. Of course not. You know how enthusiastic and dedicated the Rebbe was to share Mitzvot with others!? But it teaches us about the incredibly deep and indestructible gift we have inside, that is ours forever, and it’s up to us to do with it what we want.
Friends, I shared with you something deep, that may not make so much sense on the surface, but resonates deeply in the inner chambers of the heart. Keep this thought deep inside you. Wherever you go in life, remember that the Jewish soul runs deep, and regardless of what happens on surface, it will always be there for you when you seek it out.