Sunday, March 19, 2017

Weekly Torah Portion, Ki Tisa, "Dumb Question"

Add this to my series of "dumb questions." I have a lot of questions about this Torah Portion and Biblical narrative. Did you ever think about these things?

For the longest time this has bothered me. Until quite recently, time was pretty general-inexact, and since there was no way to communicate with people on the go, we didn't get all that surprised when someone was late. And it's only in the recent century or two that pretty much everyone had a watch with them, and each house one accurate clock or more.

Of course today's world is so very timed and controlled. But we all know that even a few years ago, when a family member or friend traveled, like when my son did his after the army trek in South America, days and even weeks could go by without any communications. We had to just pray and trust that all was well, or we'd go insane. All sorts of normal, benign, conditions could cause delays in even the most planned contact schedules, arrivals etc.

That's why I could never understand why/how, during an era when the hour was judged/measured by the length and angle of shadows, and there was absolutely no way to communicate further than a shout or "smoke-signal" away, the recently escaped from slavery Children of Israel, nascent Jewish Nation, could so quickly freak-out, panic, lose faith that their leader Moshe would safely return.
Exodus Chapter 31
1When the people saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron, and they said to him: "Come on! Make us gods that will go before us, because this man Moses, who brought us up from the land of Egypt we don't know what has become of him."אוַיַּרְא הָעָם כִּי בשֵׁשׁ משֶׁה לָרֶדֶת מִן הָהָר וַיִּקָּהֵל הָעָם עַל אַהֲרֹן וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלָיו קוּם | עֲשֵׂה לָנוּ אֱלֹהִים אֲשֶׁר יֵלְכוּ לְפָנֵינוּ כִּי זֶה | משֶׁה הָאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלָנוּ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֹא יָדַעְנוּ מֶה הָיָה לוֹ:
There had to have been something insidiously planned by trouble-makers to rally the people so quickly against Gd, Moshe and Aaron. 

Considering the massive number of people and how long it would take, if it had truly been spontaneous, for this rebellion to reach a pinnacle of action. Being logical, it would have taken a few days to get organized, collect the gold, melt it down and form a "calf."

picture credit

And how long would it take for this "golden calf" to harden and be ready for display?

The Biblical account is very dramatic, telling of how Moses in great anger broke the tablets Gd had prepared for the Jewish People when he saw them worshipping the golden figure.

From the text, Moses came down just hours or at most a day after the people had panicked, so how could they have so very quickly produced an idol to worship?

It doesn't make sense to me. Does anyone have some answers?


Mr. Cohen said...

Dear Bayta,

You said: “There had to have been something insidiously planned by trouble-makers to rally the people so quickly against Gd, Moshe and Aaron.”

You said: “How could they have so very quickly produced an idol to worship?”

Excellent comment! Excellent question!

The Midrash teaches that two sons of Bilaam (Yunnus and Yumbrus) were the leaders of the Erev Rav, the mixed multitude who were most guilty in the incident of the Golden Calf. Yunnus and Yumbrus used black magic to create the Golden Calf.

I hope this helps to answer your question.

Mr. Cohen

PS: Please read my guest-posts on this blog:

Ancient Roman historians connected Jews with the Land of Israel:

How a Reform Rabbi Became Orthodox (true story):

Rambam Rejected Childless Messiah:

Why Muslims Hate Jews:

Forgotten Muslim Oppression against Jews:

How to Convict the New York Times of Unfair Bias Against Israel:

leah said...

Also and more penetrating don't forget the satan made a vision above of Moshe Rebbenu on his death bed. It had to be very believeable who would think otherwise. Not able to explain the action or the desire but the the time frame is best answered with this in mind. And might I add what a real shtukk it was to klal and completely unfair...

Batya said...

Mr. Cohen, thanks. I'm glad you don't think I'm off the wall to ask.
leah, that doesn't make sense, sorry. I'm not into the satan stuff and barely can tolerate even midrashim

Sammy Finkelman said...

Deleted because of typos and corrected and somewhat added to:

Well one way is if in fact, the people had never been told how long Moshe would stay up there. Forty days is more than enough for something to build.

I know the commentators say there was a mistaeke of a day but where does it ever say that Klal Yisroel was told how long Moshe would stay up there??

It says at the end of Mishpatim, Shenos 24:18 that Moshe was there for 40 days and 40nights, but it doesn't say anybody was told how long he would be there or even that Moshe himself knew. He had to wait seven days even to begin, and it doesn't say Moshe himself knew that would last seven days..

When the Torah says he was there for 40 days and 4 nights, it's telegraphing us ahead of the fact. But all that anybody knew was that they (the Zekanim) should wait there, and in the meantime, Aaron and Chur should act as judges.


So you can see: One day, two days, five days, ten days, twenty days, thirty days - and no word.

Still, it had to have been organized and insidiusly planned. What happened was not a natural reaction.

If they think that this - what happened at Mount Sinai - and teh Exodus itself too! -is all nothing, or this is all over, and theer is no connection to the divine, then wouldn't the logical thing to do be to send a search party up the mountain? Why jump to the conclusion that Moshe is an ordinary man and we don't know what happened to him - and let's make a new God?

Of course they didn't suggest sending a search party, while Aaron didn't think that would be the right thing to do, because he was cinfident that Moshe would return, and besides it was God who had made the mountain holy, so the idea was not suggested.

And Aaron didn't know how to argue, and he made comproises, and it didn't work, and they were about to all just abandon everything. Within weeks! It was a test, of course.

Batya said...

Sammy, thanks for taking the question seriously. It has been bothering me for years. Having first learned Torah only as an adult, I have trouble accepting simplistic "Torah stories" and explanations.

Moshe said...

The Torah story is exactly that, a story.

Batya said...

Not exactly...

Moshe said...

You were asking for answers. I gave you my answer. Of course, the story has interpretations, but that is a different story.