It should never be too late to do the right thing.

In a little more than two weeks, Jews around the world will gather to celebrate The Festival of Passover. This holiday requires Jews to refrain from eating leaven and is highlighted by the Seder meal in which we retell the story of the exodus from Egypt. There are many stories to be shared and retold every year at this time, but do you remember the Bible story of The Golden Calf? It is a story about what happened after the story of Passover.

As this story is told, the nation of Israel had recently been redeemed from a life of slavery to the Pharaoh in Egypt. They were journeying through the desert on their way to the Promised Land and had just made one very important stop. They made camp at the base of Mt. Sinai to await the return of Moses, who had made his way to the mountaintop to receive the law and the Ten Commandments. They expected him to return in 40 days. When he did not return when they expected him, the nation rebelled and fashioned a calf from gold as an idol to worship instead of worshiping God. Of course, Moses returned a day later to find the golden calf. He was so upset at this betrayal that he dashed the stone tablets on the ground and broke them.

Approximately seven weeks before arriving at Sinai, the people had been taken from Israel through a great series of signs, plagues and wonders. They promised to worship the one and only God, yet at the first opportunity had turned away from that promise to return to idol worship. How is it that they could not sustain their faith and commitment to God, even after witnessing so many miracles, for more than just a couple of months? This was such a series of momentous events that we gather together every year, now almost 3500 years later, to retell the story. Shouldn’t that have been enough for them to keep their faith?

It was relatively easy for the people to promise to love and honor God right after witnessing the miracles of the redemption. They had been on a honeymoon of sorts. The challenge was to continue that behavior after the honeymoon. The true test of faith was to maintain their good behavior in the days and weeks following that awesome experience. They fell short of that goal.

What about life today? What happens after the honeymoon, or the first anniversary? Do we have the commitment and the staying power to be in it for the long haul? Many people start out with every intention to live a committed life, only to see themselves fall back on old habits and lifestyles when things don’t go the way they had expected. Should we be given another chance, whatever our shortcomings may be?

Perhaps the very important lessons we need to draw from this embarrassing episode in our history are, firstly, that people do sin, human beings do make mistakes, and even inspired people who saw the divine with their own eyes can mess up badly. Secondly, and even more importantly, that even afterwards there is still hope, no matter what.

I was privileged to be able to stand under a wedding canopy in Jerusalem last month for my own wedding. At the end of the ceremony I broke a glass with my foot under that canopy as my bride watched. This custom teaches a very important lesson about life to a bride and groom who are about to embark on their own new path in life. What happens immediately after the groom breaks the glass? Everyone shouts “Mazel Tov!” The message is clear. Something broke? OK, it’s not the end of the world. We can even laugh about it and still be happy. This too shall pass. This is such a practical lesson for a newlywed couple to learn.

It is possible to pick up the pieces in life. Whether it’s our relationships with God, our marriage partners, our kids or our colleagues, we can make amends and repair the damage. All too often when life becomes difficult, we don’t stick around to do the hard work that is necessary to improve our situation. The nation of Israel did it after worshiping a golden calf. We should remember whenever we feel there is no going back.

Rabbi Gary Berenson is the rabbi at Congregation Etz Chaim and also serves as the executive director of The Maine Jewish Museum in Portland. He can be reached at:

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