11 September 2022

The Final Tikkun: Revisiting the Golden Calf

15 Elul 5782

Shootings, rock attacks and riots are increasing in Samaria.  I began warning people over two decades ago (starting with Sondra Oster Baras) against the various "bridging" initiatives being formed to bring Jews and Evangelical (and Messianic) Christians together and the danger it presented.  

I guess it is about 13 years ago now when I first began to warn that allowing Christian "visitors" and "volunteers" to establish worship of Yeshu (outright idolatry) in and around the yishuvim where they were living and working would remove the Divine protection the Jews had previously enjoyed.  And I was not the only one to sound the alarm.  However, nothing was done and nothing is being done, so the situation just deteriorates further.  

You may be wondering what this has to do with the Golden Calf and I would say - everything!

Worship of the Golden Calf was the source of the first sin committed after receiving the Ten Commandments and it brought the entire nation down from the high spiritual level it had just attained and rendered it unfit for the first set of luchot.  Would it not be logical to think that it may be the last sin to be rectified before the completion of the final redemption?

I'm going to bring here much of the commentary that the Stone Edition Chumash offers on the subject and let you take it to heart and understand how this applies to us today - right now!  And then, I will, hopefully, tie it all together with a bow at the end.

…the Jews who truly worshiped it as an idol were a tiny minority of only three thousand people, …and even they were the Egyptian rabble, Eirev Rav, that flocked to join the Jews when they left Egypt.   These erstwhile Egyptians proclaimed when the new god emerged from the flames, “This is your god, O Israel.”   They did not refer to it as our god, because they were outsiders who were addressing the Jews.

 [They "reveled" around the Calf.]

To revel.   The term implies the three cardinal sins of idolatry, licentiousness, and murder. In addition to their worship of the Golden Calf, they committed immoral acts and they had murdered Hur, who attempted to restrain them (Rashi).   This was the nadir of the tragic episode, the point at which error turned to wantonness.

…the original intent in making the calf was not to worship it as a god, … the initiators of the project were the Eirev Rav, and … only an infinitesimal proportion of Jews actually worshiped it.   However, the sin was most grievous, nonetheless.  As is clear from verse 27 [Shemot, chapter 32], there were Jews, few though they were, who were guilty of idolatry. The rest of the people did not resist the Eirev Rav or the Jewish worshipers.  This constituted either silent acquiescence or lack of faith, which was a condemnation of the nation as a whole.

It is a stiff-necked people.  This is the familiar simile for stubbornness, referring to one whose neck is too stiff to turn; consequently, he will never look backward once he has embarked on a course (Ibn Ezra; Sforno).  Such a person will refuse to listen to criticism or admit a mistake. This was the trait that nearly doomed Israel.   Even after describing their sin in the starkest terms (v. 8), God did not say that they should be destroyed; error can always be corrected if the will is there.  But if the people are too stubborn to listen to reason, what hope is there for them?

[Moses and Yehoshua both heard the sounds from the camp up on the mountain.] 

…It was a sound that was distressing to Moses, because it indicated that the people were enjoying and celebrating the blasphemous and immoral behavior to which they had sunk as they sang and gyrated around their new god (Rashi).   Indeed, Sforno (to v. 19) comments that it was the rejoicing that most disturbed Moses.  He despaired of changing and perfecting people who were wildly enjoying sin.

Atonement. Moses had to rid the nation of its sin before he could beseech God to let them regain the Tablets and the spiritual role they had forfeited.  First, he had to purge the nation of the sinners, who, though relatively few, had had an influence on the nation as a whole.
[Apparently, among the Christian ideas assimilated into Jewish minds in the Western Diaspora is this idea that it really does not matter what you do, God forgives everything, and they really don’t believe there will be any punishment meted out to them.]
He made them drink. There were three categories of sinners and hence corresponding categories of punishments (Yoma 66b): (a) Those who had been warned by witnesses not to serve the idol and did so anyway were liable to a judicially imposed death by the sword (vs. 26-28); (b) those who did so intentionally before witnesses, but had not been warned – and therefore could not be punished by the court – died in a plague (v. 35); (c)…The unfaithfulness of the last group to God was like that of an adulterous wife, so Moses imposed upon them a test like that given a sotah, a wife accused of adultery….   He had them drink from water mixed with the particles of the ground-up Golden Calf (Avodah Zara 44a).   Only those who had worshiped it died, like the sotah who was guilty of the charge (Rashi).

Moses turned to Aaron,… “Granted that you may have had no choice but to make the Eigel, [after they murdered Hur] but the worst part of the sin was that they rejoiced with it, and that happened because you proclaimed a festival (v. 6). Why did you have to compound the sin by causing them to celebrate it? (Sforno)  Aaron put the sin into the perspective that the long years of exposure to Egyptian idolatry has predisposed the nation toward such disgraceful behavior.  Then he viewed their demand and his attempt to stall for time.  Although Aaron did not wish to describe the catalogue of sins that ensued, Moses had already seen enough.  Aaron had exposed the shame of the people, for not only the sinners were at fault, but those whose failure to respond had made it possible. This revealed the ignominy of the nation, for they had been disloyal to God and Moses.

Whoever is for Hashem, join me!  Moses asked the Jews to make a decision and stop straddling the fence. [Shades of Eliyahu HaNavi at Mount Carmel!]  Their response showed the depth of their spiritual fall, for only the Levites stepped forward; though the rest of the people were loyal to God, they would not dedicate themselves uncompromisingly to His service.  Haamek Davar accounts for the relatively poor response to Moses’ plea.  By calling upon these volunteers to carry out death sentences against the idolaters, Moses was about to expose them to great physical danger.  Only those who were absolutely loyal to God would receive Divine protection, and the Levites were the only ones confident enough to accept the risk.

And on the day that I make My account.  Mercifully, God consented not to punish the entire nation at that time, but He declared that whenever they would sin in the future, they would suffer some of the punishment that they should have received in retribution for the sin of the Eigel (Rashi).  The sense of this teaching is that the sin of the Golden Calf cannot be completely erased, because it left an indelible stigma on the people. Thus, whenever national sins are committed, they are due in part to the spiritual residue of the Golden Calf. Sin does not take place in a vacuum; we are heirs of our history.
[On why Moshe Rabbeinu felt compelled to break the first tablets...]
Moses reasoned that if it is forbidden for a heretic to eat the pesach-offering..., surely a nation of heretics (meaning the masses of the nation that stood by complacently in the face of organized idolatry) cannot be given the entire Torah (Rashi from Shabbos 87a).
In this season of teshuvah, who is going to wake up enough to accept responsibility for this sin and make a complete once-and-for-all atonement for it!!!!  Lives are literally at stake!!!!

We do not have a missionary problem so much as we have a Jewish problem.  Every missionary endeavor in this country was introduced by Jews.

Whoever encourages relationships between Jews and idolaters or whoever makes it possible for idolaters to perform their idolatrous worship in Eretz Yisrael or who knows of such actions but refuses to condemn them, stands guilty before HKB"H!!

Some leading "settler" rabbis have spoken up, but it seems the word is not getting around to the klal.  The following is from a TOI 2012 article about HaYovel...
...The presence of the Evangelicals has kicked up opposition from some prominent settler rabbis.  Among the fears, rabbis are worried the volunteers will do missionary work and look for converts.

Moshe Tsuriel, a prolific writer on issues of Jewish law and a spiritual mentor to yeshiva students, came out against the volunteers in an article published earlier this year.  “On the one hand, they declare that they are helping us in our war against the Arabs,” Rabbi Tsuriel wrote.  “[But] there is a big risk that [Jewish] souls will become closer to Christianity.”

In an interview with the same news website, The Jewish Voice, Shilo’s rabbi, Elhanan Bin Noon, called for a halachic ruling on the issue of accepting help from Evangelical Christian groups.  “When these people are invited to perform acts of assistance, for them it’s a religious worship.  How can you be interested in something like that?”  He also accused the group of blurring the distinction between Judaism and Christianity.

Shortly before Rosh HaShanah, Rabbi Dov Lior, another prominent settler rabbi, issued a general halachic ruling against accepting material assistance beyond money from Christian groups because they practice idolatry.

However, the Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the rabbi of Har Bracha, the settlement where the volunteers are based, has said that they aren’t missionaries. Hayovel has also gotten backing from David Haivri, a spokesperson for the Samaria regional council.

Kol hakavod to Rabbi Tsuriel, Rabbi Bin Noon and Rabbi Dov Lior, as well as Rabbi Yehudah RIchter of Elon Moreh who has also protested.

What if Mashiach is announced and his first words to the public are "Mi l'Hashem elai!!?"

How will you be able to answer?   

~ ~ ~

This is likely the final blog post here at Tomer Devorah.  I'll qualify it with a b'li neder.  This is my intention, but if HKB"H has other plans,  I remain open to that.  The blog will, of course, remain here as an archive and there are fifteen years of almost daily posts to refer to on various subjects of Jewish interest.  

I feel I have said everything there is to be said - and then some - and I really want to spend less time on the computer.  When the month of teshuvah arrives and the New Year is on the horizon, we all begin to think more about how to improve ourselves and make changes for the better.  I need this for my own growth and personal improvement.  I hope the readers will understand.  

It has been my distinct privilege and pleasure to share my learning and my thoughts with you over these many years and to receive yours in return.  I wish for everyone who reads this a Sweet New Year, and may all your prayers be answered affirmatively.  Here's hoping we meet very soon at the rebuilt Beit Hamikdash in Yerushalayim HaKodesh.

Ketivah v'Chatimah Tovah and Chag Sameach!!