In Torah portion Matot, Moses sends the army of Israelites to take revenge on the Midianites, per God’s instructions. He directs them to travel with the “sacred utensils” (Num. 31:6), which the Talmud explains to be the Aron Hakodesh, the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the ark were the sacred tablets God gave Moses on Mt. Sinai, both the second complete set and the first set that Moses broke when he witnessed the people dancing around the Golden Calf.
The Belzer Rebbe, R’ Yissachar Dov Rokeach, asked why the Children of Israel would bring along the broken set of tablets, which were a vivid reminder of their past mistake. On the battlefield, when they needed God to bless them with strength and victory, why “remind” the Holy One of their most shameful failure? In fact, the Belzer Rebbe explains, it’s just the opposite. The Israelite army carried evidence of the Sin of the Golden Calf as a reminder that God was always willing to accept their repentance and take them back, just as He did after their greatest mistake. Evidence of weakness is actually evidence of strength, because the protection of a loving and forgiving God can help us overcome even the fiercest of enemies.
Image: “The Adoration of the Golden Calf” by Herrad of Landsberg, 12th cent.