THE GOLDEN CALF

The Children Of Israel accepted the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.  Then Moses ascended the mountain to receive all the commandments and the Covenant Tablets (Exodus 31:18).  He stayed there for forty days and forty nights, leaving the people under the leadership of his brother Aaron.

 

In the meantime “the people saw that Moses delayed in descending the mountain, and the people gathered around Aaron and said to him: ‘Rise up, make for us gods that will go before us; for this man Moses, who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what became of him’” (exodus 32:1).  The same people who were freed by “this man” from slavery; who were saved in the sea from the chasing Pharaoh and his war chariots; who committed to follow God’s commandments; and who witnessed in awe the thundering deliverance of the Ten Commandments, are appealing to Aaron to create for them new gods.  The absorption of a new set of beliefs is, indeed, a lengthy process, which takes its time, even when convincing miracles are present.

 

Disappointing as it might be, one can understand the behavior of these people, “lost” in the desert, coming to Aaron for leadership.  Aaron could tell these people to wait; he could reassure them that Moses will be back; he could remind them the miracles that had happened to them already and revive their faith.  But instead he collects their golden earrings, molds a golden calf, builds an altar to this newly declared god and calls a day of feast and celebration.

 

Moses did return.  Upset, he threw and broke the Stone Tablets and destroyed the golden calf.  He then asked Aaron: “What has this people done to you that you have brought a great sin upon them?” and Aaron answered: “You know the people, that he is disposed toward evil ... so I said to them: ‘who has any gold?’ they broke it and gave it to me. I threw it into the fire and this calf emerged!” (see Exodus 32:19-24).  In one answer, Aaron blamed the people for what he did and blamed the fire for creating the golden calf.  His excuse was that he read the public opinion polls and gave the people what they wanted.  And besides, he did not do it, it just happened.

 

Aaron, who had been chosen to escort Moses and do the public speaking for him (to be ‘his mouth’), did not talk his way out of the sin.  Smooth talking may soften and deceive some people, but God knows, and Moses saw it for what it was.

-- Judah AriGur

 

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