While a number of reasons have been given by Rabbis over the centuries, the one I like the best is this: Moses is concerned that the Israelites might have built the golden calf to replace himself as intermediary to God (or else why build it in his absence?). Moses feared they would deify the tablets. He destroyed them, demonstrating how far they had fallen short of true faith.
Perhaps we do the same thing today: deify Jewish objects–but forget the essence and foundation of Judaism. And, like Moses, perhaps we should crash some of these to the ground, as well.
People who kiss the Torah with reverence but remain ignorant of its laws are deifying animal skin but not ethical and moral imperative.
People who keep kosher but treat their acquaintances rudely are deifying food and not the sanctity of people.
People who kiss the mezzuzah but don’t hug their children are deifying a wall hanging and not family cohesion.
People who kiss a prayerbook when it falls but have trouble telling their spouses they love them are deifying a book but not interpersonal sensitivities.
People who pray when someone sneezes with words like “God bless you” but don’t pray before they eat, deify empty gestures, but not an appreciation of the world around them.
Let us refrain from using Jewish objects as ends unto themselves and use them to remind us of the true essence of Judaism: to be ethical, moral, more humane, more responsible.
-Rabbi David Vorspan, Rabbi-in-Residence