Imagine the following scene: Moshe ben Avraham is called up for an aliyah to the Torah on Shabbat morning. He says his blessing, and the reader begins to chant the text. The shul is packed, and immediately everyone starts schmoozing, even though the rabbi has already asked them several times to keep quiet.
Suddenly the reader grabs the scroll, lifts it over his head, and hurls it towards the floor; wood shatters and flies into the air, and the parchment unfurls almost out the door. Everyone is in shock.
“Yashar Koach,” says the rabbi as he stands up from his chair on the dais, and starts clapping his hands. The congregation is quiet.
Even someone with the lowest level of religious sensitivity could never throw down a Torah scroll. Yet as Moshe descends from Mt. Sinai with the tablets in his hands, his reaction to Israel’s worshiping a golden calf is to smash the Torah. Equally shocking, as the midrash paints it, Hashem says, “Yasher Koach that you broke them (the tablets).”
Rav Zadok HaCohen (Tzidkat HaTzadik 154) attempts to make sense of Moshe’s severe reaction. Moshe understood the magnitude of the nation’s transgression, and knew the repercussions would be great. Indeed, Hashem suggests to Moshe that Hashem will wipe out the nation and begin afresh with him. “Blot me out of your book,” Moshe replies. Moshe refuses to give up on Israel.
Says Rav Zadok, this is why Moshe broke the tablets: he needed to do an act of equal atrocity, so that he too would be on the same level as the nation. What more dreadful act could there be then breaking the tablets carved out by Hashem?
“Yasher Koach,” Hashem replies. Moshe threw his lot in with the people based on his belief in himself and in the nation. Forgiveness could be Hashem’s only appropriate response. The message that Rav Zadok draws out from this difficult story: one not only needs to believe in Hashem, but one also needs to believe that Hashem believes in us also. Despite our flaws and missteps we are still endowed with a divine aspect of Hashem, and are always connected to our Creator.