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March 20, 1987 - Image 39

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-03-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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Golden Calf Illustrates
Weakness In Everyone

RABBI RICHARD C. HERTZ

Special to The Jewish News

T

he story of the Golden
Calf that is part of
this week's sidrah is
shrouded in superstitious
mysteries. The rabbis of the
Talmud suggested (Meg. 25b;
Meg. 4:10) that the account of
the golden calf should be read
at public worship only from

TORAH PORTION

the original Hebrew, with no
translation, in order that the
people might not hear how
sinful Israel has really been.
Yet, the story of Moses
going up to Mt. Sinai to
spend 40 days working on the
Ten Commandments, fashion-
ing them under Divine Inspi-
ration, and then returning to
find the Israelites without
faith, reveals an essential
weakness of which we are all
guilty.
Those 40 days must have
been difficult ones for the Is-
raelites to bear without the
dynamic leadership of Moses.

Ki Tisa,
Shabbat Parah:
Exodus
30:11-34:35,
Ezekiel 36:16-38

Many a time the people had
wanted to return to the
fleshpots of Egypt rather
than push on into the wilder-
ness. The days must have
dragged on for the people.
Each day found them more
cantankerous and rebellious,
too much for Aaron to handle
in Moses' absence.
The people became more
and more quizzical. They
thought, "Perhaps Moses had
deserted us!" "Perhaps Moses
said 40 days in order to give
himself plenty of time to
flee!" "Perhaps Moses is
dead!"
Indeed, the Midrash tells
us that two Egyptian magi-
cians appeared before the
people, and by means of signs
and wonders made the body
of Moses appear before the
gullible minds of the people
so convincingly that they
thought Moses was really
dead. A wail went up. The
people began to clamor for a
god to lead them out of the
wilderness. They wanted a
visible image of the god who
had delivered them from
Egypt.

Dr. Hertz is rabbi emeritus
of Temple Beth El.

When Hur, a faithful Is-
raelite, stepped forward and
reprimanded the people for
being faithless to the one,
true invisible God, he was cut
down by hysterical people
and put to death. Aaron was
threatened with the same
fate unless he yielded to the
people's demand for a visible
god fashioned with their own
hands.
The Midrash raises three
questions regarding Aaron's
conduct:
First, why didn't Aaron re-
fuse to do what the people
demanded? Answer: He
realized it would be futile to
do so, because they had mur-
dered Hur on that account.
Second, why did he himself
make the idol? Answer: He
preferred to be made alone
responsible for the sin of
which he was deeply con-
scious.
And finally, why did he
build an altar in addition to
the golden calf? Answer: He
felt sure that the whole un-
dertaking would be frustrated
by the return of Moses during
the long time that it would
take him to build it single-
handed.
The rabbis say that Aaron,
always a man of peace,
sought out a device by which
he hoped to stall the people
until Moses could return. He
ordered the children of Israel
to bring golden ornaments
and jewelry from the wives,
for he believed that the
women of Israel had greater
faith than the men and would
refuse to give up their
jewelry for an idolatrous
practice.
The Midrash says that the
women of the wilderness gen-
eration, • Dr. Hamidbar, were
the first to be called "women
of Israel," an honored name
in Jewish history. Faithful
women have never ceased
since that time. Today we say
that women are the backbone
of the synagogue and are the
most faithful devotees of reli-
gion.
The story continues that to
the disappointment of Aaron,
the men gave up their golden
earrings, even when the
women had refused. Aaron
put the gold in the fire, and
out came a calf! People
shouted and danced.
"This is thy God, 0 Israel."
When Moses came down
the heights of Sinai and
heard the rumblings of the
people shouting and dancing
before the golden calf, he was
deeply overwrought to think
that his people could be of
such little faith as to make a
golden calf in place of the one
true God!
For the early Church

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THE CULTURAL COMMISSION

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Cordially Invites You to Hear

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