Midrash מִדְרָשׁ

Midrashim are ideas or stories that explain the Torah. They often come from listening very carefully to what the Torah says and how it says it. Here, we will look for what clues this midrash sees in the Torah's words, and try to understand its messages.
וַֽיְהִ֗י כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר קָרַב֙ אֶל־הַֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה וַיַּ֥רְא אֶת־הָעֵ֖גֶל וּמְחֹלֹ֑ת וַיִּֽחַר־אַ֣ף מֹשֶׁ֗ה...
And it came to pass, as soon as he came close to the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moshe became angry...
This midrash notices something surprising: while Moshe was up on Har Sinai, God told him that the חֵטְא הָעֵגֶל (heit ha-eigel, sin of the golden calf) was taking place down below. Right away, Moshe pleaded with God to forgive Benei Yisrael. After all that, why did Moshe get so angry when he saw the eigel? It shouldn’t have been such a shock!
הוֹדִיעַ משֶׁה דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ לְיִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲפִלּוּ שֶׁיְהֵא אָדָם שׁוֹמֵעַ דָּבָר מִן יְחִידִי נֶאֱמָן, אָסוּר לְקַבֵּל עֵדוּתוֹ לַעֲשׂוֹת דָּבָר עַל פִּיו אִם אֵינוֹ רוֹאֶה.
Moshe was teaching proper behavior to Benei Yisrael: even if you hear something from a reliable person, you should not accept what they say unless you see it yourself.
  • According to this midrash, when is it ok to believe what we hear from other people, and when is it not ok? When should we make the extra effort not to take other people’s word, but rather try to see the situation for ourselves?
  • Can you think of a few reasons why seeing things for yourself can be better than believing what you hear from someone else?
  • Why does Moshe choose the moment of the heit ha-eigel to teach the lesson that we should not judge other people based only on what we hear about them?