What fascinates me about this moment in the Torah (Ex. 32:15-19) is what we forget because we too well remember how the story ends. That is to say, the ultimacy of Moshe’s act: that at the moment he shatters the tablets, there is no second set. These precious tablets carved by God are all there is— all there will be—and we cannot, will not, ever receive this precious intimate gift. Whatever happens next. Moshe commits us to reckon with the depths of this, our, failure. Everything that follows will flow from this awe-full and complete and irreversible loss. And yet, as incredible, the loss itself, the shattered tablets, is or will become holy. Moshe’s desperate gesture claims us, an endless reckoning. This monument, this unavoidable landmark in our spiritual psyches limns out the shape of an immense wound, and yet is also, somehow, despite everything, a way forward?
Daniel is a participant in JTS’s Artist-in-Residence program.