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Friday, February 26, 2016

One of "My Dumb Questions" About "Sin of The Golden Calf"

I'm known for my "dumb questions." I wasn't brought up with the usual Torah stories, and I tend not to take everything as true unless it's straight from the Biblical text.

By Nicolas Poussin - http://www.cts.edu/ImageLibrary/Public_domain.cfm, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=475193

In the Biblical story of the "Sin of The Golden Calf" in this week's Torah Portion, Ki Tissa, something has been bothering me. I wonder how in a time before reliable watches, clocks, cellphones etc  the recently escaped from slavery Jewish People could have had been so sure of the exact time that they went into a panic when Moses hadn't arrived back at the "right time."

It wasn't all that long ago that it was normal to just wait, because one never knew when exactly someone would arrive, and there was no way to contact them. There could always be justified delays from weather, traffic, unexpected snafus. Way back when, just a few decades ago, we'd take for granted that forty days could be forty-two or even more.

Could the sin be that organizing that calf/idol really started well before the forty day deadline?

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Shalom Batya,

Regarding time at that 'time' way back when...
I think they 'time' was timed by the rising and setting of the sun.

And the position of stars?

So that is how they must have come to to conculsion 'time'was up... and so...
they did what they did...


Marcel Cousineau said...

I think you have to take into consideration the strong, stubborn nature of humanity, and man's incredible stupidity, still in rebellion against God since the Garden of Eden, from day 1.
God is dealing with sick puppies, the stubborn, stiff necked human race.

Remember, it was not long after they were freed from slavery in Egypt that the people started complaining about the 'good old days' in Egypt..and they made sure to make Moshe's job hard.

We can see the stubbornness in Israel and across the world today.
Here is a good example of this deadly,terminal cancer in Yeremiah's day.

Mind you, this wickedness was ""after"" God sent the King of Babylon to defeat Israel and lead them into the first diaspora.

""Then all the men who were aware that their wives were burning sacrifices to other gods, along with all the women who were standing by, as a large assembly, including all the people who were living in Pathros in the land of Egypt, responded to Jeremiah, saying,

“As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we are not going to listen to you!

17 But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our forefathers, our kings and our princes did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune.
18 But since we stopped burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have met our end by the sword and by famine.”
19 “And,” said the women, “when we were burning sacrifices to the queen of heaven and were pouring out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands that we made for her sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her?”
Jeremiah 44

Batya said...

It wasn't all that long ago that traveling time could never be predicted, so it should have been expected that there would be a delay in Moshe's return.
For the gold to be collected, melted and molded into the shape of a calf, must have taken many days. How else could it have all been done? And if Moshe had returned at the end of the 40th day, then the only way the calf could have been complete and cooled would have been if they had started working on it days before.

Michael Netzer said...

Your question is anything but dumb. The Children of Yaakov/Israel had been in Egypt for a few hundred years and grew from 70+ to several hundreds of thousands. Throughout, they told their children the stories of their fathers, starting with the beginning of creation. Now that they'd arrived at Mt. Sinai after having been liberated from slavery by a messenger of the G-d they'd known mostly from the stories, it was only natural there'd be a movement among the people that would want to make an image as a symbol for their worship. That is, after all, an epitome of the culture they grew up in.

Some certainly started planning it even before Pharaoh's army was drowned in the sea.

But like everything with Bnei Israel, it's not always wise to rush to condemn their perceived transgressions. The golden calf instilled the need for a focus of worship. It opened a door for the people's acceptance and support for building the Mishkan, which was a monumental achievement, by any measure of the circumstances they were in, for properly directing the natural human desire for physical representation on which to focus their reverence. We still need it today, even though we're promised to overcome that need at the end times.

Batya said...

Thanks for the good, helpful answer.

Anonymous said...

Surprised no one commented on what our Torah scholars tell us. All who study Torah know that Chazal specifically teaches us that it was the Erev Rav (the mixed multitude) who egged on and caused the frenzy to create the eigel hazahav. The Erev Rav were also very much into kishuf (black magic) and were able to create this idol, so as soon as they thought they could trick the Jews into thinking that Moshe was delayed in returning, they brought on the frenzy and the rest is history.

Batya said...

So they were the ones punished/killed?
Considering how many people/Jews escaped Egypt and how few (what percentage really) could have been involved, not all for sure, what you answered makes sense. I'm trying to picture this, because it's written that only the Levys were spared, but all the tribes entered the Land. So could the actual Jews/tribes have been further away and just the Erev Rav and Levys involved?

Anonymous said...

Batya: Three thousand were killed because of the sin; most likely more Erev Rav than Jews. There was a total of almost 2 million (+/-) Jews who left Mitzrayim & there were more or less the same number of Erev Rav. But, that the Jews participated and fell for this wicked trick (they were very weak minded after 210 years of slavery), all the congregation were responsible. The only ones not punished were the Levites as they individually and collectively did not participate.

Batya said...

Thanks, makes sense.

Sammy Finkelman said...