Shabbat Ki Tisah

Candles Friday 16th Feb 5:23pm
Havdalah 27th 6:19pm

Why did the Children of Israel make the Golden calf? They had after all supposedly seen the miracles in Egypt, the miracles in the desert, the Sinai revelation, why would they possibly think a piece of metal could have done it all? One explanation is that they thought everything was really done by Moses (however much he might have said that it was all God, they could at least see him). Now he had gone, disappeared up the mountain for longer than most humans could survive without supplies. But if they had already been told that there should be no other gods why would they now make one? Maybe they were so used in Egypt to seeing animal representations as gods, all they were doing was returning to what was familiar.

The question continues, long after. Throughout the period of the Judges and the Kings, the Children of Israel were constantly seduced by other gods. It wasn’t just that they were defeated and adopted the victor’s deities. They actively seemed to have been prone to idolatry. Why?

When you think of it, idolatry is no more than having a placebo or a symbol that relieves you of having to think for yourself. Like superstition it's a placebo for dealing with the unknown. But it always was more. Worshipping nature encouraged doing whatever came naturally, the easy pleasurable, indulgent. Imagine having a choice between an orgy and a religious service!

Monotheism, Torah, is demanding. It requires one to take responsibility and to think before acting. Most people don't like being told what to do. And it's the same today. Many Jews really worship money and doing what it is easy. Only a small percentage are willing to discipline themselves and their children to lead religious, ethical and controlled lives. It is human nature. And we are as human as everyone else.