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Benjamin Jantjies - Dvar Torah


For my Torah portion, I've decided to speak about the perspective of the Hebrews at Mount Sinai when the Golden Calf was made.

Why did the Hebrews make the golden calf, what made them do it?


We know the story of the Golden calf and what happened to the rebels who disobeyed G-d, Moses saw their rejection of G-d and it made him angry which caused him to smash the tablets and force them to drink the pounded dust of the golden calf, symbolising the Hebrews breaking their contract with G-d, but what led the rebels to reject G-d and become unfaithful so quickly, and was Moses justified in his anger and response?


During the absence of Moses, the Hebrews grew impatient and anxious about what had happened to Moses. They approached his brother Aaron the high priest and demanded he make them a god to worship. This was seen as a direct violation of God’s commandments, which prohibited the worship of other G-ds and the creation of graven images. This demonstrated the impatience and lack of faith of the Hebrews.


There were several instances of rebellion against Moses and Aaron’s leadership, most notably Korah, a Levite and a cousin of Moses and Aaron. Korah along with Dathan and Abiram led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron's authority claiming they were exercising too much power over the Hebrews and that the leadership should be shared amongst all the people, not just them. Along with the impatience of the Hebrews which resulted in the creation of the golden calf, Korah’s influence on the Hebrews resulted in even more division and conflict among the Hebrews.


Moses' anger towards the Hebrews was justifiable for several reasons, Moses was chosen by G-d as the leader of the Hebrews, therefore any disobedience or lack of faith on their part was a violation of their covenant with God and a betrayal of Moses’ leadership and God’s plan for them.


The Hebrews had repeatedly disobeyed God’s commandments and questioned his authority, even after witnessing his miracles and experiencing his mercy. They worshipped false idols, complained about their conditions and even threatened to stone Moses at one point.


It’s easy to see the Israelites as wrong here which they were, but not necessarily unjustified, the majority of the israelites who left Egypt with Moses were egyptian born and when they lived there, they were surrounded by people and even amongst themselves were people who were exposed to and worshipped statues and idols which is not the way the Hebrews were meant to worship G-d. These were traditions and a way of life where their grew up in Egypt, so after they followed Moses out into the Desert they felt lost ,specifically when he went up to Mount Sinai, when he did not return when he said he would they must have gotten scared and fearful, they barely knew who Moses was and followed him away from their life and all they've ever known and he now suddenly ‘left’ them in their perspective and didn't return, so perhaps they pressured Aaron into building the calf for the sake of being able to pray to something that they can physically see and feel, because they had not seen Hashem before and perhaps their faith was slipping as the result of their fear, so because of them being exposed to idols it wouldn't be a stretch for them to create another one to feel safe and perhaps more connected to G-d. Now after all this seeing how they might be scared of the unknown and them following their natural instincts that they’ve been exposed to their whole lives, Moses came down and exploded in anger and made them drink the powdered dust of the calf.


To conclude my point, while the building of the golden calf can be seen as an act of disobedience and lack of faith , it is important to understand the context and perspective of the Israelites at the time and in general to look at the other point of view in a story, to put yourself in another’s shoes or situation. They were a vulnerable and uncertain group of people who perhaps sought a physical form of G-d’s presence. However their actions ultimately led to serious consequences and serve as a reminder of the dangers of idolatry and the importance of faith in G-d.


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