What then is in Parashat Tisa? After committing such a grave sin, had the Jewish people just given up, they (and we) would have missed the point stressed in this parashah. “The Jewish people were not meant to sin [by the Golden Calf]. Why then did they commit the sin? To teach us that if a congregation would ever sin, they are told, ‘Go to that congregation [and see that it is indeed possible to repent, even after the gravest of sins]’” (Avoda Zarah 4a).
Even with Torah study and prayer it is possible to stumble, the secret then of Parashat Tisa is that there is a life after the fall—there is teshuvah (repentance). The name of the parashah, “Tisa” appears again in the portion in the verse, “And now, if you [G-d] would carry their sins”—implying forgiveness, like the principles of G-d’s compassion, which can only be revealed after the sin of the Golden Calf—specifically, “[G-d] carries iniquity.” There is hope. Rectification is possible. Though the Tablets were shattered, a new set of Tablets will replace them.
Parashat Tisa is situated between the commandments to construct the Tabernacle and the priestly garments and their implementation, which culminated with the G-d’s Presence dwelling within the Jewish people, as described in the concluding verses of the Book of Shemot. The bond between the Jews and G-d through the Tabernacle is like the marriage of husband and wife—hinted by the cherubim that lovingly faced one another and underneath them the Tablets symbolizing a wedding contract.
The name Tisa (תשא) is also linguistically related to marriage (נישואין)—a marriage that is only possible after repentance is added to Torah study and Divine service. In more depth, repentance is in its essence the recognition that we cannot help but unite with G-d, for if we do not, life has no purpose! As Moshe said, “If You will carry their sins, but if not, please erase me from Your book.”