It happened as he drew near the camp and saw the calf and the dances that Moshe's anger flared up. He threw down the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. (Ex. 32:19)

God told Moshe that the Jewish People had sinned and fashioned a golden calf. Moshe came down from atop Mount Sinai and saw the golden calf, as well as the merriment and dancing which accompanied it. His anger flared up and he shattered the luchos - the tablets of the covenant. Why did Moshe not break the luchos as soon as God told him that the Jews had made an image?

When Moshe first heard that they had made for themselves a golden calf, he tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. A huge nation felt stranded in the wilderness. What would they feed their children the very next morning? Without a leader and an intermediary to God, how would they survive? He thought they made the idol out of desperation. But when he saw them dancing, he realized that they had not done so reluctantly at all; they enjoyed their worship of the idol, it was a part of them! He then realized that there was no justification for their deed and they did not deserve to have the luchos.(1)

When a person does something with joy it becomes a part of him. The mind best absorbs what it finds pleasurable. It is for this reason that one of the 48 ways in which one acquires Torah is to study Torah with joy.(2) When a person is joyous the mind expands and enables the Torah to take residence within him. However, when someone is sad the mind shrivels and can barely contain a thing. By studying Torah with joy and excitement, the Torah gets absorbed into your blood stream and becomes a part of you.(3)

NOTES

1. R' Yaakov Kamenetsky.

2. Pirkei Avos 6:6.

3. Introduction to Eglei Tal.