The Tragic Calf and its consequences
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Let us learn a powerful lesson from Sefer (Book of) Exodus - - Shemot
On this site I will mostly use a version based on the “Jewish Publication Society” Tanakh (JPS)
In the yearly cycle of Torah readings, we approach the last chapters of Exodus with caution.
On the one hand, we celebrate the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle being the recently freed Israelites’ first shared spiritual project. Every hook, board and piece of embroidery is described at length, the details reinforcing the long journey from servitude to the eventual culmination of the building of a wonderful new sacred space representing the nexus of the Divine-human partnership with our Elohim, blessed be He.
Whilst on the other hand, there is also another part of our national development that was accompanied by something we much rather prefer to put well behind us, but there is a reason it remains there in Sefer Shemot, for it is there to remind us how easy it is to forget in a short space of time how Great our Elohim is and what He has done for us, and I do mean for you and me, yes for us ALL!
Although, He punished Mitzrayim (
“And when the people saw that Moshe
delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together
unto Acharon - Aaron, and said unto him: ‘Up, make us a god who shall go
before us; for as for this Moshe, the man that brought us up out of the land of
Egypt, we know not what is become of him.' And Acharon said unto them:
‘Break off the golden rings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your
sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.’ And all the people
broke off the golden rings which were in their ears, and brought them unto
Aaron. And he received it at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool,
and made it a molten calf; and they said: ‘This is thy god, O Israel,
which brought thee up out of the
Tragically this was merely a replay type of idolatry that took place in Mitzrayim and sadly many of Yisroel had gone astray and fallen far from Elohim and practiced pagan worship. But, after the great miracles shown by Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, it had no place in the lives of B’nei Yisrael, for they now had the opportunity to have new lives and uphold spiritual monogamy. And yet with all what Elohim had done for them, the plagues, the parting of the sea, the daily manna, somehow it was still not enough to achieve an exclusive relationship. All it took for them to go so far astray to return to paganism was for Moshe to be absent for too long.
I have heard rabbis say that in context,
this act of audacity was perhaps understandable. Excuse me; tell how you figure
that out rabbi? This was their remarkable reply;
I have heard rabbis say that in context, this act of audacity was perhaps understandable. Excuse me; tell how you figure that out rabbi? This was their remarkable reply;
“Well they had not long enjoyed their
spiritual freedom, thus it was very new to them and it gave them a new kind of
responsibility, the weight of it simply was very isolating. And that is why
Moses’ temporary disappearance on
How long do we think all the events took from Moshe and Acharon first asking the Pharaoh “Let My People go” to the actual departure? The Midrash suggests it could be up to a year, but it could also be as short as around three months. The point is this, so many miracles occurred in whatever time it took, and they were not little unnoticed miracles, but huge miracles, not just little ones, and they obviously affected the entirety of Mitzrayim, but not a single Hebrew was affected. Then the final miracle at Pesach was, that the evil Pharaoh finally allowing us to go.
But, did you realise that there was one other miracle, it is one that we tend to completely forget! If this miracle had not happened, we would have left as a poor nation, but remember, when B’nei Yisrael departed Mitzrayim, we left with huge great riches, a huge amount of gold and silver and so much more; for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, made sure of it! For He said;
“And I will give this people favour in the sight of the Egyptians. And it shall come to pass, that, when ye go, ye shall not go empty; but every woman shall ask of her neighbour, and of her that sojourneth in her house, jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment; and ye shall put them upon your sons, and upon your daughters; and ye shall spoil the Egyptians’” Shemot – Exodus 3: 21-22 - (JPS version of the Torah).
We need to understand that our people were tragically living as a nation as slaves for so many years and thus they knew no other kind of life, thus when they departed, they did so not just with more than freedom which our Elohim, blessed be He, had given them, but He also ensured that they also departed with a great deal of wealth!
Thus rabbis, these people could not so easily change their faith from the Elohim who had done so much for them and all those miracles, and what ensured they could cross the sea and escape the Egyptian army, and then swallowed them up and kept them safe. Yet all too soon they “murmured”
How massive was it that on the other side of the Red Sea the miracles continued for Elohim, blessed be He, continued with the amazing miracles for He not only provided “manna from heaven”, also “quails”, and a little later at “Rephidim” water was given by the means of a rock.
unto Moshe, saying: ‘I have heard the murmurings of the children of
“And the people thirsted there (at Rephidim)
for water; and the people murmured against Moshe, and said: ‘Wherefore
hast thou brought us up out of
And we all know well
Now Rabbis, ask yourselves the question, how
long was it between departure and
Thus with the Rabbi’s having stated that they worshiped the golden calf was mostly because …
had not long enjoyed their spiritual freedom, thus it was very new to them and
it gave them a new kind of responsibility, the weight of it simply was very
isolating. And that is why Moses’ temporary disappearance on
That is called rabbis attempting to justify
everything, including that cult-like “Chabad-Lubavitch Movement”
who continue to worship and pray to their dead leader,
As we look at that evil card above and we will realise how fickle we humans can be, even though they have come to know the Great Elohim, and witnessed His mighty miracles, and our people have been part of the amazing Exodus, saw the sea made perfect to walk to the other side. To have Manna provided as well as the fowl of the air, and then just because Moshe had not returned as yet, they wanted to worship another god, and they created a pagan Golden Calf. And sadly that is what the Lubavitcher’s have done with this rabbi, he has become their Golden Calf. Some will tell you that they do not believe he is the messiah, etc, but why is it that 1. they all pray to him. 2. that the Rabbi in our city, as I believe all Chabadnic’s has this giant photograph of him hanging in his home in a place that everyone that enters sees it. As far as I am concerned it is a “graven image”!
When Moshe heard what was going on down there, like the faithful man he was, well let as read more what is written;
“And said unto Moshe: ‘I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people. Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation. And Moshe besought his Elohim, and said: ‘, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, that Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, saying: For evil did He bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Thy people. Remember Avraham, Yitzchak - Isaac, and Yisroel - Israel, Thy servants, to whom Thou didst swear by Thine own self, and saidst unto them: I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.' And repented of the evil which He said He would do unto His people!” Shemot – Exodus 32: 9-14 - (JPS version of the Torah).
Just imagine for a moment the scene that Moshe - Moses witnessed as he descended the mountain. Sefer (Book of) Exodus - Shemot sadly describes most of our people Yisroel were caught up in a mutinous free-for-all, kind of violent out of control and unstoppable rabble to put it nicely. Moshe waited a day, but then his reaction was swift and unambiguous after the punishment upon the three thousand guilty ones:
“And it came to pass on the morrow, that Moshe said unto the people: ‘Ye have sinned a great sin; and now I will go up unto , peradventure I shall make atonement for your sin.’ And Moshe returned unto , and said: ‘Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them a god of gold. Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written.’ And said unto Moshe: ‘Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book’”. Shemot – Exodus 32: 30-33 - (JPS version of the Torah).
With Moshe being ever the leader he
named their wrongdoing and then took responsibility for seeking forgiveness. No
doubt he was angry and disappointed, perhaps even with himself for not
recognizing that their faith might have been too fragile that his absence would
lead to recidivism. But he was committed. He understood the power of a covenant
that should not be shaken.
With Moshe being ever the leader he named their wrongdoing and then took responsibility for seeking forgiveness. No doubt he was angry and disappointed, perhaps even with himself for not recognizing that their faith might have been too fragile that his absence would lead to recidivism. But he was committed. He understood the power of a covenant that should not be shaken.
When Moshe approached Elohim, he named the sin and offered to every leader who followed a model of integrity: Name the wrongdoing and don’t try to couch it in ambiguous language. But then Moshe behaves in a way that his new congregation would never have expected, telling Elohim: “Now, if You will forgive their sin; but if not, erase me from the record which You have written.”
“Yet now, if Thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not, blot me, I pray Thee, out of Thy book which Thou hast written.’ And said unto Moses: ‘Whosoever hath sinned against Me, him will I blot out of My book. And now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee; behold, Mine angel shall go before thee; nevertheless in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them. And smote the people, because they made the calf” Shemot – Exodus 32: 32-35 - (JPS version of the Torah).
It is as if Moshe is saying to Elohim: My people have sinned, but they are still my people. If they are erased, then I am erased. We must see the construction of the Mishkan through so that these lapses do not happen again. We must build a home together where You, Elohim, can dwell to strengthen this nascent covenant.
Moshe sought to turn regret into improvement. And isn’t that the most basic human project, and believe me, building a portable Mishkan is certainly far harder to construct than just an altar.
Have you ever thought about regret, and the
power of it? Sometimes, if we look backward, it actually can move us forward.
Indeed, we should understand that can learn from our mistakes! We should also
realise that moral regrets tend to last the longest, for often they are rooted
in betrayals, deceptions and sadly they can be due to infidelities. But regrets
can also be harnessed and help you to fuel improvement. The truth is if we will
only understand the errors we have made and straighten up, we can reverse our
lives and reveal what we value the most and if we will only place our faith in
Elohim our Creator first and foremost and build our lives on being a good and
an active Jew. Believe me, you will be so much more successful and will not be
tempted and fail as sadly the
Please remember to say the “Shema Yisroel” twice per day!
Please Note: We refuse to use what is actually proven in the Torah/Tanakh to be a pagan word ‘god’ as it is actually a name of a pagan deity, In Ivrit it is “Elohim” or “El” which is NOT a Name, but an attribute, being what and who Our Creator is, blessed be He! But we must always use it with great love and reverence! I have used ‘HaShem’ for your sake.
“Hear, O Israel: HaShem our Elohim, HaShem is ONE. And thou shalt love HaShem thy Elohim with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates” Devarim - Deuteronomy 6: 5-9 - (JPS version of the Torah).
Thus to conclude; what we regret shows what we value. Moshe wanted Elohim to know that he still valued his people so that Elohim could still value them. Moshe wanted the people to experience regret so they could renew their energy for what they truly valued.
He was, in essence, saying to Elohim:
“It is not my distance that is the
problem. It is Your distance. The people are afraid of
You. They have witnessed Your
overwhelming power. They have seen You bring the
greatest empire the world has ever known to its knees. They have seen You turn sea into dry land, send down food from heaven and
bring water from a rock. When they heard Your voice at
“And they said unto Moshe: ‘Speak thou with us, and we will hear; but let not Elohim speak with us, lest we die’” Shemot 20: 16 - (JPS version of the Torah).
… “Thus they made a Calf not because they wanted to worship an idol, but because they wanted some symbol of Your presence that was not so terrifying. They need You to be close. They need to sense You not in the sky or the summit of the mountain but in the midst of the camp. And even if they cannot see Your face, for no one can do that, at least let them see some visible sign of Your glory.”
The Mishkan was not built exclusively to recognize Elohim’s Glory. It was also built to achieve intimacy with Elohim. As Moshe teaches us, it is by drawing close and recommitting that we transform our wrongdoing into something durable and lasting.
I trust this message from between Moshe and our ever loving Elohim has touched us, for there is so much to be learned from it, do not look toward what we see outside, when what we really have so much closer to home is so much more valuable, and that is our faith in Elohim, blessed be He!
May Elohim bless and keep you in the palm of His ever loving hands!
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And please remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page:“The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”
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