Aliya Summary: After G‑d revealed Himself to the entire nation at Mount Sinai and told them the Ten Commandments, Moshe ascended the mountain where he remained for forty days. There he was to study the Torah and receive the Tablets. The Jews miscalculate when Moshe is supposed to return, and when he doesn’t appear on the day when they anticipate him, they grow impatient and demand of Aaron to make for them a new god. Aaron cooperates, all along intending to postpone and buy time until Moshe’s return, but despite his efforts, a Golden Calf emerges from the flames. The festivities and sacrifices start early next morning. Moshe pleads with an incensed G‑d to forgive the Jews’ sin. G‑d acquiesces and relents from His plan to annihilate the Jews. Moshe comes down with the Tablets, sees the idolatrous revelry, and breaks the Tablets. Moshe enlists the Tribe of Levi to punish the primary offenders. Three thousand idol worshippers are executed on that day. Moshe ascends Mount Sinai again, in an attempt to gain complete atonement for the sin. G‑d tells Moshe to lead the Jews towards the Promised Land, but insists that He won’t be leading them personally; instead an angel will be dispatched to lead them. Seeing G‑d’s displeasure with the Jews, Moshe takes his own tent and pitches it outside the Israelite encampment. This tent becomes the center of study and spirituality until the Tabernacle is inaugurated.
When Moshe sees the Calf, the Tablets either slip from his hands and break or he intentionally smashes them (opinions differ – interesting connotations to either opinion). He seizes the Calf, destroys it, spreads its ashes over the water, and prepares a potion for the people to drink (also interesting connotation that requires analysis).