In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
Ki Tisa – Proceeding With His Grace. 5777
We go first to scripture for a reminder of where we have been and are going through the text.
אֲנַ֫חְנוּ נִקְרָא סֵ֫פֶר תְּהִלִּים פֶּרֶק – עח
Tehillim 78; 1 Listen, O my people, to my instruction תֹּורָתִי (Torah) ; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth….We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done. 5 For He established a testimony עֵדוּת (ed) in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach לְהֹודִיעָם (yada) them to their children, 6 That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, 7 That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His וּמִצְוֹתָיו (mitsvah)commandments , 8 And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit רוּחֹֽו (ruach) was not faithful to God…15 He split the rocks in the wilderness And gave them abundant drink like the ocean depths. 16 He brought forth streams also from the rock And caused waters to run down like rivers. 17 Yet they still continued to sin against Him, To rebel against the Most High in the desert. 18 And in their heart they put God to the test By asking food according to their desire…21 Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath; And a fire was kindled against Jacob And anger also mounted against Israel, 22 Because they did not believe in God And did not trust in His salvation. 23 Yet He commanded the clouds above And opened the doors of heaven; 24 He rained down manna upon them to eat And gave them food from heaven. 25 Man did eat the bread of angels; He sent them food in abundance….34 When He killed them, then they sought Him, And returned and searched diligently for God; 35 And they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer. 36 But they deceived Him with their mouth And lied to Him with their tongue. 37 For their heart was not steadfast toward Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant. 38 But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them; And often He restrained His anger And did not arouse all His wrath.
39 Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return. 40 How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness And grieved Him in the desert! 41 Again and again they tempted God, And pained the Holy One of Israel….54 So He brought them to His holy land, To this hill country which His right hand had gained. 55 He also drove out the nations before them And apportioned them for an inheritance by measurement, And made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents. 56 Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God And did not keep His testimonies, 57 But turned back and acted treacherously like their fathers; They turned aside like a treacherous bow…60 So that He abandoned the dwelling place מִשְׁכַּן(mishkan)at Shiloh, The tent which He had pitched שָׁכַן ( shakan) among men, 61 And gave up His strength to captivity And His glory וְֽתִפְאַרְתֹּו (tiffarah) into the hand of the adversary…69 And He built His sanctuary מִקְדָּשֹׁו (mikdash) like the heights, Like the earth which He has founded forever. 70 He also chose David His servant And took him from the sheepfolds; 71 From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs He brought him To shepherd Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance. 72 So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands.
Our Parasha ha shavua פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ is Ki Tisa כִּי תִשָּׂא “when you take” is one of the most chilling accounts in the Torah. It begins with the census and counting of the silver shekalim. Each man was to give a half shekel for the upkeep, service and tribute toward the Mishkan. Often in the Torah you will find a ‘census’ taken (when commanded by Hashem) before or after there is some tragedy and loss among the people. It is as if the Great Shepherd is taking stock of His sheep. The fact that there was to be an equal donation for everyone in light of the Mishkan accounting, regardless of their station, can teach us that in the eyes of Hashem- when it comes to approaching the ‘work’ of the Holy Place His Presence Resides…no man is more important than another. This ‘counting’ shows His great love for His Treasured Nation ( סְגֻלָּה Segula עַם Am).
Sh’mot 30; 11The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12″When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their numbers, let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them when they are counted. 13This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel. Twenty gerahs equal one shekel; half of [such] a shekel shall be an offering to the Lord. 14 Everyone who goes through the counting, from the age of twenty and upward, shall give an offering to the Lord. 15 The rich shall give no more, and the poor shall give no less than half a shekel, with which to give the offering to the Lord, to atone for your souls. 16 You shall take the silver of the atonements from the children of Israel and use it for the work of the Tent of Meeting; it shall be a remembrance for the children of Israel before the Lord, to atone for your souls.”
Differences in wealth and assets were of no significance in this annual half shekel tax that made each citizen an equal partner in the Temple enterprise. The rich could not give more nor the poor less. Souls cannot be quantified and counted — each soul has its own unique significance that would be violated by trying to quantify it or assign it a number. What counts is that each person adds his or her own SELF and WILL, and is willing to play his or her part by paying the “head tax” and “casting a vote”. Numbers and wealth do not count in the eyes of G-d. What counts is each person’s WILL to make a contribution — to have an equal share with everyone else, without pride and without shame, in being part of the whole, feeding the Altar and bringing the fire of G-d’s presence into the world. Rabbi Greenbaum azamra.org
Sh’mot 4; 13 But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.” 14Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, “Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. 15“You are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. 16“Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him.
Moshe was meant to be Kohen gadol, ALL the firstborn of Israel were meant to be the attending Kohanim. All the Kohen are Levi’im, but not all Levi’im are Kohen. It is taught that Moshe forfeited his right when he repeatedly ‘rejected’ God’s mission at the sney סְנֶה. I mentioned in the past, when the Torah seems to use ‘more words than required’ there is a meaning behind it. Here the text states, 1) your brother (that alone would have been enough, Moshe had one brother), 2) Aaron, 3) the Levite (how ‘silly’ Moshe know’s he is from the tribe of Levi.) The term Levite לְוִי ( Levi’iy #3881) is first found in Torah here. It is at this point that the role of the tribe becomes poignant. This text tells us one reason Aaron is chosen for the Kehuna ( כהונה Priesthood). His brother Moshe is appointed for this incredible task. The world will never be the same, the lives of their people will become transformed and for the future it is Moshe who will lead (as king) the nation into nationhood in the Holy Land. The ‘overarching’ theme of sefer B’reshit was family dissension/dysfunction and “jealousy between brothers”. When we realize that our Sh’mot text says of Aaron: v’ra’acha v’samah b’libo (when he see’s you he will be GLAD IN HIS HEART)…this shows us a deep and genuine regard for his brother and instead of a threat, Aaron see’s this as an honor and he is absolutely joyous for his brother Moshe. Aaron is categorized as a man who was personally involved with the people. He had a palpable reciprocity for all his people and kin. [Thus scriptures tells us the ENTIRE people mourned him at his death, a detail not included for the death’s of other leading figures. See: Bemidbar 20;29 Even Moshe. See: Devarim 34;8] This is one reason Aaron is so special, it should be a factor to weigh in our hearts when we ‘judge’ him in relation to the chet ha egel. The passages below explain that Hashem’s original ideal was that the firstborn of the tribes would be “kohanim” and perform the sacred service, avodat Hashem. After the chet ha egel they forfeit this right and the Levi’im are designated.
Sh’mot 24; 3 Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!” 4Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. 5He sent young men of the sons of Israel, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as peace offerings to the LORD. 6Moses took half of the blood and put it in basins, and the other half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. 7Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” 8So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Sh’mot 13;1Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2″Sanctify to Me every firstborn, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel, both of man and beast; it belongs to Me.”
B’midbar 3;12”Now, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the sons of Israel instead of every firstborn, the first issue of the womb among the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall be Mine……44Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 45″Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be Mine; I am the LORD.
Post golden calf, it was ALL the Levi’im who ‘took the side’ of Hashem standing with Moshe. It was the Levi’im who did the incredibly difficult task of administering Hashem’s judgment for those who had sinned. What they did for God’s Name sake would have been nearly impossible for many of us to imagine, sadly there was a continued cleansing that the Kahal (assembly, church) had to go through. The command from Hashem was that EVERY MAN take part in this justice, only the Levi’im took up the task. Indeed it became their cross to bear and forever set them apart. The idols, the nothings in our lives may drag us down unless we are able to be patient and faithful. We may only be able to accomplish this through continued prayers for discernment, strength and a faith strong enough to endure the temptations and “shiny things” that draw our eye’s from the true treasure which is soon to come down from Heaven.
Sh’mot 32; 25 Now when Moses saw that the people were out of control פְרָעֹה (para: naked, uncovered, unbridled)—for Aaron had let them get out of control פְרָעֹה to be a derision among their enemies— 26 then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me!” And all (כָּל kal) the sons of Levi gathered together to him. 27 He said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Every man of you put his sword upon his thigh, and go back and forth from gate to gate in the camp, and kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.’” 28 So the sons of Levi did as Moses instructed, and about three thousand men of the people fell that day. 29 Then Moses said, “Dedicate yourselves today to the Lord—for every man has been against his son and against his brother—in order that He may bestow a blessing upon you today.”
Matthew 10;21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. 22You will be hated by everyone on account of My name, but the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.
Matthew 10; 34 Do not assume that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn ‘A man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ 37Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; 38and anyone who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
John 15; 1 I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. 2He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. 5 I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, proving yourselves to be My disciples. 9As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Remain in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love. 11I have told you these things so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (Keep this line in mind as we discuss Aaron.)
Before we come to the chet ha’egel we recieve more mention of the Sabbath. Even for the service of the Mishkan in all its intricate details, one is to cease on Shabbat. Do not think that working, striving, creating, even for the sake of the Mishkan supersede’s the Sabbath’s ceasing and filling. There is a function of the Sabbath and it’s goal is ONE. Although the manifestations of ‘what Shabbat looks like’ will appear different for all different types of people, different families, in different cultures, with different traditions which sanctify shabbat…the ONENESS of the Sabbath means- refraining from our own will, desire, inclination, pleasure, delight in order to meet Hashem and allowing Him to give us His Shalom= Completeness. Yes, even the construction of the House of the Presence of God on earth was not more important than being a community a body of Hashem on the Sabbath day. For we have well noted, He will dwell within US. How much more so on the Shabbat.
Sh’mot 30; 12The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 13″And you, speak to the children of Israel and say: ‘Only keep My Sabbaths! For it is a sign between Me and you for your generations, to know that I, the Lord, make you holy. 14Therefore, keep the Sabbath, for it is a sacred thing for you. Those who desecrate it shall be put to death, for whoever performs work on it, that soul will be cut off from the midst of its people. 15Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of complete rest, holy to the Lord; whoever performs work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.’ 16Thus shall the children of Israel observe the Sabbath, to make the Sabbath throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant.
17Between Me and the children of Israel, it is forever a sign that [in] six days The Lord created the heaven and the earth, and on the seventh day He ceased and rested.”
The last thing that God relates to Moshe to iterate to the people, before he goes up into the thick cloud to recieve the Ten words and so much more, the entire pattern for the Mishkan and it’s vessels for Avodat Hashem…is a Sabbath explanation, command. The first thing that Moshe relates to the people after coming back down Sinai with the second set of Luchot, this is highly significant:
Sh’mot 35; 1Then Moses assembled all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and said to them, “These are the things that the LORD has commanded you to do: 2“For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death. 3“You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the sabbath day.”
God is…..Creator? If He didn’t create wouldn’t He still be God? Of course, yet our ceasing is a testimony. It is also a way in which we can keep God’s appointed times and have a centered and accurate ‘calculation’ of time. This is one thing the people at the foot of the mountain seemed to lack. Had they failed to keep the Sabbath? How did they loose count of the time they were to wait for Moshe?
Yes, timing very well can be ‘everything’. The declaration at the Sea, which was not ‘so long ago’ is so very bitter post golden calf as the terms are mirrored. Once a direct hit at the heart of the matter (This is my God! I will worship HIM…) and another such a huge betrayal one can scarce comprehend it (this is our god….).
Sh’mot 15;1 Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said,“I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted;The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. 2 “The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation;This is my God, and I will praise Him;My father’s God, and I will extol Him.
(זֶ֤ה אֵלִי֙ zeh Eliy, HE IS GOD!)
Sh’mot 32;7 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. 8“They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’”
( אֵ֤לֶּה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ Eleh elochecha in the Hebrew it actually says: these are your gods).
Sh’mot 32;1When the people saw that Moses was late בּוּשׁ 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 אִישׁ Moses, who brought us up from the land of Egypt we don’t know what has become of הָיָה him.” 2Aaron said to them, “Remove the golden earrings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters and bring them [those earrings] to me.” 3And all the people stripped themselves of the golden earrings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4He took [them] from their hand[s], fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into a molten calf, upon which they said: “These are your gods, O Israel, who have brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 5When Aaron saw [this], he built an altar in front of it, and Aaron proclaimed and said: “Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.” 6 On the next day they arose early, offered up burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and they got up to make merry.
There is so much to take in, let us attempt, bezrat Hashem, to absorb and learn from a few concepts. I pray that in this we will find clarification for the deep lessons in this difficult and stunning section. I pray that we will ‘leave’ this place with something meaningful to apply given directly from Hashem. There are so many questions as to chronology, motivation, there are many reasons given to explain away or excuse this betrayal but we will not attempt this. Instead let us try and look at what is. Let us look the mentality, track record, the fruit, experience and the substance of all parties involved here.
The people had expectations, the people had made predictions, the people say that Moshe is “late” coming down from the mountain. This word is : #954 buwsh בּוּשׁ- to fail in hope or expectation; troubled, disturbed, confused (of the mind); to put to shame, disgrace. he first occurrence of בּוּשׁ is found B’reshit 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (The next and only other Torah context is above. The rest of Tanach translates buwsh as anxious, shamed, ashamed or disappointed. If the people are thinking low of themselves, perhaps wondering if they can do it…if they are even worthy of their appointment, doubting themselves…perhaps thinking that Moshe had gone to be with Hashem and why would he even want to return to them. We must remember how powerful doubt is, this is why Amalek is connected to doubt and God maintains an eternal ‘war’ with Amalek. We must remember doubt exists but we are commanded to blot it out completely! Indeed this is essential to faith itself- the nullification of self doubt, doubt in our peers, doubt in our Godly leaders, & especially doubt in Hashem.
The people say: Make us gods that will go before us, because this man אִישׁ ish, Moses, who brought us up from the land of Egypt we don’t know what has become of הָיָה him .” This statement shows us several things. On one hand the people do believe that he is the essential administrator of God’s deliverance for them, yet perhaps they had seen him as too paramount. On the other hand they seem to be separating from the reality of Moshe’s specialized and divinely ordained role. He’s just a man. He’s gone, we need a leader, we want something material that we can relate to…we need some one (some thing) to take us into the Land. I submit that the people are not necessarily desiring to replace God, they are looking to replace Moshe. הָיָה Chaya – to be or exist, to become…from the root Chai- life might explain that they indeed doubted if Moshe was even alive, they doubted the Divine help and favor he shewed them from Egypt to now, who could survive without food or water for 40 or more days? It’s impossible, he’s just a man, אִישׁ .
Devarim 9;15 “So I turned and came down from the mountain while the mountain was burning with fire, and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands. 16 And I saw that you had indeed sinned against the Lord your God. You had made for yourselves a molten calf; you had turned aside quickly from the way which the Lord had commanded you. 17 I took hold of the two tablets and threw them from my hands and smashed them before your eyes. 18 I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you had committed in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke Him to anger. 19 For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure with which the Lord was wrathful against you in order to destroy you, but the Lord listened to me that time also. 20 The Lord was angry enough with Aaron to destroy him; so I also prayed for Aaron at the same time.
There is a teaching that the people who “assembled” against Aaron had already worked themselves up into a fervor. The scripture mentions a person named Hur. Now, Hur is no little figure. He was indeed one of Moshe’s right hand men- literally holding up his arm at the battle with Amalek. See: Sh’mot 17; 8 Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. 9 So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” 10 Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.
Then it is said of Hur: Sh’mot 24:14 But to the elders he said, “Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a legal matter, let him approach them.”
After this there is NO MENTION of Hur except in reference to him being the grandfather of the Head Hauncho of Mishkan construction Sh’mot 38:22 Now Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, made all that the LORD had commanded Moses.
Hur WAS THERE art the foot of mountain at some point, he was beside Aaron in order to keep order until Moshe returned. It is taught that the people first approached Hur to make the ‘gods’ to lead them….but he refused and said, ‘over my dead body…’ to which the people obliged. This will give us further insight into Aaron’s motivations, of which I am certain there were many.
I believe Aaron knew at that point that the people would stop at NOTHING to accomplish this current desire they had, it had become uncontrollable for them. I believe that Aaron knew if they just killed him the people would go on with their plan and if, having killed him and perpetrated whatever else this would spiral out into becoming….they would never be able to obtain forgiveness, they would never reach repentance. I believe that Aaron decided it was better that he sacrifice himself, laying down his place in the world to come with Hashem, for his brothers. I believe Aaron decidedly chose to give his ‘soul’ for his people and took up making this idol in order that it would stop there and he could bear the burden of blame.
There are two things we see in the text to substantiate my belief (and more with a simple heart consideration and logical devise): Aaron never denies having made the calf, he expresses the facts about the people’s nature (which we have already witnessed in spades): Sh’mot 32; 22 Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn; you know the people yourself, that they are prone to evil. 23 For they said to me, ‘Make a god for us who will go before us; for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 24 I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold, let them tear it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came הָיָה this calf.” (This verse could be read- the fire brought forth this calf.) I do not think Aaron is blaming the people, I believe he is attempting to explain their track record, their nature.
I believe Aaron, knowing that nature, asks them first for the most precious costly valuable item (gold) that they had with the notion that ‘surely they will be reluctant to part with their gold’. The indication that he asks them to take it from their wives, again, is a hint that he perhaps thought they wouldn’t be so expediently successful in this task.
The term for “tear off” the gold can prove that he was attempting to show his disdain for what they were planning to do: #6561 (v) Parak פָּרַק- to break off or crush, to tear off from oneself. It can also indicate the haste and intent with which the people actually did what Aaron stated (much to his chagrin.)
I believe that Aaron was stalling and waiting, hoping for Moshe’s return. I believe Aaron is, even amid doing what he had to do, yet trying to return the attention of the people to Hashem. He builds an altar, again- stalling and says ‘tomorrow’ is a feast to YHVH. The day that Moshe returns from the mountain was in fact Yom Kippur. Aaron IS aware of the times. And forever onward that day in which the people frolicked, partied, feasted and were sexually wild…has become a day for fasting, refraining from sexual relations, and deep introspection. Aaron never said “this is your god” it is THEY who make that statement, while Aaron mentions Hashem. : they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5 Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord .” In effect, this may be happening today….but Tomorrow is Hashem’s day for Judgment and Covering. For all Israel were made to drink the bitter waters, these waters revealed for the Levi’im who had become guilty of ‘adultery’ and who were innocent. I think we tend to forget that there were people who did NOT take part in this sin.
Shmot 32;19 It came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain. 20 He took the calf which they had made and burned it with fire, and ground it to powder, and scattered it over the surface of the water and made the sons of Israel drink it.
The other text which I believe substantiates my belief in this case is as follows: Sh’mot 32; 33 The Lord said to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. 34 But go now, lead the people where I told you. Behold, My angel shall go before you; nevertheless in the day when I punish, I will punish them for their sin.” 35 Then the Lord smote the people, because of what they did (עָשׂוּ asah) with the calf which Aaron had made (עָשָׂה asah).
First of all, we KNOW that God judged Aaron and in the end He found him worthy of not only survival but retaining the highest position within His kingdom. We KNOW God judges the heart and there was clearly something that we as humans can not see that God did regarding Aaron’s intentions in this case. The text above says that whoever sinned was judged. It is not as if God has to worry about ‘saving face’, He already said Aaron was to be Kohen so now He’s stuck, chas v’shalom (God forbid one would infer such a thing.) Look at the text. The Lord smote because of what the people did…with the calf Aaron made. Not- God smote because the calf was made, but it had to do with what the way the people were behaving, what they were DOING.
Tehillim 118; 3Oh let the house of Aaron say, “His lovingkindness is everlasting.”… 5From my distress I called upon the LORD; The LORD answered me and set me in a large place. 6The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?… 11They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me; In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off. 12They surrounded me like bees; They were extinguished as a fire of thorns; In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off. 13You pushed me violently so that I was falling, But the LORD helped me. 14The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation. 15The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous; The right hand of the LORD does valiantly… 18 The LORD has disciplined me severely, But He has not given me over to death. 19 Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the LORD. 20This is the gate of the LORD; The righteous will enter through it.
Aaron decided, I will lose my portion in the world to come, and the people will find forgiveness. I’ll do it. The person worthy to be leader, is ready to give up everything in this world and the next so the Jewish people don’t have more sin than God would be willing and ‘able’ to forgive. When Aaron would for future years enter the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he would “see” the broken luchot- they too remain inside the holy of holies. Just because something is broken doesn’t mean it is unable to use. Moshe had to return and we still need new luchot, because we sinned “you have what to fix now….”
Don’t think for a moment its Aaron becomes Kohen DESPITE the Golden Calf. It’s BECAUSE of the Golden calf.” This being said it is clear from the Hebrew that Aaron does feel reluctant to take up his role after the calf, because repeatedly Moshe has to “bring near”, to “bring to himself” Aaron as Kohen. Aaron IS appropriate because he does feel guilt for his part in the chet ha’egel.
He is ideal in fact because he can approach God on behalf of the people with a broken heart ( could this correspond with the broken luchot inside the Aron). Aaron comes to supplicate before God on behalf of the people as an imperfect person. He feels responsibility. There is nothing more open than a broken heart. If there is anything we can learn from this situation it is that GOD CAN MAKE INCREDIBLE USE OUT OF BROKEN VESSELS. No matter what, we must proceed, keep going, not give up, continue to seek and accomplish our unique and specialized missions in this life.
Devarim 10;10 “I, moreover, stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights like the first time, and the LORD listened to me that time also; the LORD was not willing to destroy you. 11 “Then the LORD said to me, ‘Arise, proceed on your journey ahead of the people, that they may go in and possess the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.’
Hebrews 4;15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.
1 Samuel 16;7 “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Read the following Psalm with Aaron in mind and heart. I am certainly not attempting to rewrite history, glorify sin or excuse misdeed. I don’t want to belittle the deep messages here, I pray that Hashem will give us His spirit to discern how He would like us to look at this section of His Torah and give us something of great value as we turn it this cycle.
Tehillim 7 O Lord my God, if I have done this, If there is injustice in my hands, 4 If I have rewarded evil to my friend, Or have plundered him who without cause was my adversary, 5 Let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it; and let him trample my life down to the ground And lay my glory in the dust. Selah. 6 Arise, O Lord, in Your anger;Lift up Yourself against the rage of my adversaries, and arouse Yourself for me; You have appointed judgment. 7 Let the assembly of the peoples encompass You, and over them return on high. 8 The Lord judges the peoples; vindicate me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and my integrity that is in me. 9 O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the righteous God tries the hearts and minds. 10 My shield is with God, Who saves the upright in heart. 11 God is a righteous judge, And a God who has indignation every day.
Now let us continue and shift focus from Aaron and the chet ha’egel to the ‘aftermath of the golden calf’, God’s communication and Moshe’s intercession. The usage of the following word, alert’s Moshe that this is a very serious and dangerous situation. Without even knowing the extent, regardless of what it is they have done, he takes up the case of the people.
#7843 (v) Shachat שָׁחַת – to destroy, to ruin, to act wickedly,to be corrupted.
Sh’mot 32; 7And the Lord said to Moses: “Go, descend, for your people that you have brought up from the land of Egypt have acted corruptly.
B’reshit 6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. 13 Then God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth.
Bereshit 18:31 And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” 32 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.”
Sh’mot 12:13 ‘The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.…23“For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to come in to your houses to smite.
Focusing on Moshe: He always has identified with the ‘underdog’, whether they be of his kin or not. He does this often by putting himself at a great physical risk. Yet, he seems to have more concern for the other versus the self. This is one big reason Hashem chose him to shepherd his people.
Sh’mot 2;11 Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 So he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other; and he said to the offender, “Why are you striking your companion?” 14 But he said, “Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” Then Moses was afraid and said, “Surely the matter has become known.” 15When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well.16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters; and they came to draw water and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Then the shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and helped them and watered their flock. 18 When they came to Reuel their father, he said, “Why have you come back so soon today?” 19So they said, “An Egyptian delivered us from the hand of the shepherds, and what is more, he even drew the water for us and watered the flock.”
This is an attribute of true leader, one who is willing to fight for his people versus be flown to safety. One who is willing to give up all his own honor in order that they might survive.
It is clear God is pulling away, first referring to the children of Israel as “Moshe’s people” and in the context below they are merely “this”. Moshe’s first task is to negotiate their continuity. He is not calling upon God’s love for the people or his mercy. The relationship has been ‘spoiled’ at this point and calling upon such ‘emotions’ would be even more ‘painful’ at this point in the betrayal. Moshe is not being mushy, not calling upon God’s chen or ahavah he is just making a case. Casting his lot with the people.
Sh’mot 32; 8 They have quickly turned away from the path that I have commanded them; they have made themselves a molten calf! And they have prostrated themselves before it, slaughtered sacrifices to it, and said: ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who have brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ 9And the Lord said to Moses: “I have seen this people and behold! they are a stiff necked people. 10 Now leave Me alone, and My anger will be kindled against them so that I will annihilate them, and I will make you into a great nation.” ……30 It came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people: “You have committed a grave sin. And now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I will obtain atonement for your sin.”31 And Moses returned to the Lord and said: “Please! This people has committed a grave sin. They have made themselves a god of gold. 32And now, if You forgive their sin But if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written.” 33 And the Lord said to Moses: “Whoever has sinned against Me, him I will erase from My book!”
Matthew 24;23 At that time, if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe it. 24 For false Messiah’s and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders that would deceive even the elect, if that were possible. 25 See, I have told you in advance. 26So if they tell you, ‘There He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
1 Thessalonians 2; 1 Now concerning the coming of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be easily disconcerted or alarmed by any spirit or message or letter presuming to be from us and alleging that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way, for it will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness (the son of destruction) is revealed. 4 He will oppose and exalt himself above every so-called god or object of worship. So he will seat himself in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that I told you these things while I was still with you? 6 And you know what is now restraining him, so that he will be revealed at the proper time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but the one who now restrains it will continue until he is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Yeshua will slay with the breath of His mouth and abolish by the majesty of His arrival. 9 The coming of the lawless one will be accompanied by the working of Satan, with every kind of power, sign, and false wonder, 10 and with every wicked deception directed against those who are perishing, because they refused the love of the truth that would have saved them. 11 For this reason, God will send them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie, 12 in order that judgment will come upon all who have disbelieved the truth and delighted in wickedness.
Sh’mot 32;1 When 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.”
We must be very cautious when anyone sets a date or claims to have reconciled an eschatological timeline. We need to remember that the number one purpose of prophecy is: a) to tell the future b) to make clearer what was already expressed in scripture c) to increase our awe, reverence and thus devotion to God (for once we see what was prophesied coming to pass we will become more and more secure in our belief in Him and trust in His plan). d) to warn God’s people to repent and return to His teaching and instructions. His Torah.
[I believe option a) is the number 1 reason for prophecy. Option b) is also true as well.]
There have been and will be people who will dupe entire populations, for their own respective reasons, into believing the ‘end is nigh’. Looking toward the certain and eventual day of revelation and judgment is good, but we must remember to maintain our devotion and work toward increasing in faith FOR that day, not because of that day. What we have been given in the Hebrew bible and Spirit breathed Apostolic scriptures is perfect. It is whole. It is unified and bears the same resounding ‘well message’. There have not been new prophets since who speak with the same authority. The word is divine and is a gift from the divine. It will not change or expand or necessitate reinterpretation. IF any prophet contradicts Torah he is a false prophet. This is why it is so important that WE understand Yeshua did NOT contradict the Torah. It seems clear that in the case of the chet ha egel the people had EXPECTATIONS, the people had SET DATES and their calculations were not correct. This caused a state of panic and desperation. This led to idolatry and indeed, our ‘worship’ of our own schedule and concepts of mastery over our ‘own time’ is very much an idolatrous attitude. One person’s prediction based upon a miscalculation can warp and entire people’s mindset and invoking panic and leading them to a very low place, chas v’shalom this should ever happen to us. Let us be armed and prepared.
[On May 30, 1883, six days after the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, a rumor that the bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede, which was responsible for at least twelve people being crushed and killed.]
Sh’mot 33; 1The Lord spoke to Moses: “Go, ascend from here, you and the people you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land that I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying: ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ 2 I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites 3 to a land flowing with milk and honey; because I will not go up in your midst since you are a stiff necked people, lest I destroy you on the way.” 4 [When] the people heard this bad news, they mourned, and no one put on his finery.5 And the Lord said to Moses: “Say to the children of Israel: ‘You are a stiff necked people; if I go up into your midst for one moment, I will destroy you;
but now, leave off your finery, and I will know what to do to you.’ “ 6 So the children of Israel divested themselves of their finery from Mount Horeb. 7And Moses took the tent and pitched it for himself outside the camp, distancing [it] from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting, and it would be that anyone seeking the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting, which was outside the camp.
Moshe cast his lot with his people BUT he also made it clear that he knew how very serious this situation had become. He also had to ‘side’ with God and at least ‘support’ or substantiate His anger and duly demonstrate the immensity of this betrayal perpetrated against Him. This is one reason he breaks the first set of Luchot and why he makes his “ohel moed” outside of the camp. He is with the people but he is also FOR God. That requires, at this point, a degree of separation.
When Hashem accepts Moshe’s case and ‘decides’ not to destroy the people, he relates to Moshe what will come next, He states: Sh’mot 33;1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ 2 I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”
This is telling in many ways. First, it seems that God has in part lumped Moshe in with the people (he wished to cast his lot with the people, God in a sort of ‘cool’ mode responds), YOU and the people. (Not you will LEAD the people, just you and them go ahead and go….) Mimicking what the people said, “the man who brought us up from Egypt…”, the people YOU brought up from Egypt, (you, right Moshe…that’s what they said.) God relates, “I will not go up within you as I said, I’ll send this angel and then we’ll see what happens. I might destroy you I might not. This language is far from intimate, it is very ambiguous.
Moshe knows there’s MUCH more to this than going into the land or not, more than will they be destroyed or not…this is God’s ‘reaction’ to having a ‘broken heart’- He ‘pulls back’ in a sense. Moshe’s greatness is that he won’t accept this. He knows that this is what it is all about, he needs to somehow repair this relationship and so He pursues God and basically says: You gave me this task, I can’t do it without You. I need a committment- are you really going to make an ‘emotional’ commitment and call these people your people or not? He relates, ‘I need a way to have a special relationship with you too, You let me in on the inside information…’ This is what Moshe’s Tent is about, rekindling the love….we are your people…now he asks God to claim and declare it. Just like the terminology for “destruction” clued Moshe in to the connection God seemed to be drawing to the Flood, God does so again in the context below… Noach (whose name spelled backwards in Hebrew is Chen- Grace) found Chen (Grace) in the eyes of Hashem, in His sight. Now God is relating that Moshe too has found Grace, and the people as well. Chen can best be described as a “free gift”, no righteousness can earn it, it is strictly at the Lord’s discretion alone to gift it. It is also not a thing to be taken lightly.
Romans 6; 1What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin live in it any longer?
#2580 (Masc. N) Chen חֵן – grace, favor, goodwill.
Sh’mot 33;12 Then Moses said to the Lord, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ 13 Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor חֵן in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor חֵן in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And He said, “My presence shall go, and I will give you rest.” 15 Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go, do not lead us up from here. 16 For how then can it be known that I have found favor חֵן in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” 17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor חֵן in My sight and I have known you by name.”
#7186 (adj) kasheh קָשֶׁה – hard, firm ,fast, stubborn, impudent, heavy, difficult. (translated below as stiff [as in necked] and obstinate.)
Sh’mot 32; 9 The Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people. 10 Now then let Me alone, that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them; and I will make of you a great nation.”
You can see the beauty of Moshe, the penultimate intercessor, who was able to pray for Aaron, pray for his people, even pray for those who would curse and constantly provoke and oppose him…and find grace with God based upon their intimate personal extraordinary relationship. The “thing” that God speaks of being the ‘reason’ for their destruction- their stubbornness…lightens to becoming the reason He won’t go with them but will send an angel, if He were to go (even though I wouldn’t want to….) I (God) might destroy you.
Sh’mot 33; 2 I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. 3 Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”
Majestic and marvelous is our King. How wonderful and gracious He is. Slow to anger and much greater in bestowing compassions upon us. The very ‘thing’ that once meant destruction and separation now becomes the REASON I WILL GO WITHIN YOU! I will take you to the Promise, despite your faults because I know you need Me. Before it was, “you are stiffnecked- this is over!” And in His great love, it is transformed into… You are stiff-necked, STILL, you are My segulah and I will go with you. Moshe’s picture of repairing a relationship and fostering love, rekindling kindess and affection is beautiful and is a shadow of the Ultimate intercessor’s work.
(Then Yeshua said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”Luke 23;34)
Sh’mot 34; 8 Moses made haste to bow low toward the earth and worship. 9 He said, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, O Lord, I pray, let the Lord go along in our midst, even though the people are so obstinate, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your own possession.” 10 Then God said, “Behold, I am going to make a covenant. Before all your people I will perform miracles which have not been produced in all the earth nor among any of the nations; and all the people among whom you live will see the working of the Lord, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform with you.11 “Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite….
So too for us as believers. Could it be, that those in our lives or whom we come into contact with….who may not be copacetic or easy to get along with….are the very people who need a good influence more than anyone. Even if it seems as though your support or gestures or even simple patience and endurance with said people seems to go unnoticed, could it be that these are the “tough cases” that God Himself desires us NOT to write off or abandon? Baruch Hashem for leaders like Aaron, for intercessor’s like Moshe, for a King like Yeshua. May you be strengthened despite the golden calf-like experiences we may subject ourselves to (chas v’shalom). When (not if) we do fail let us remember to remove our splendor and stand facing the One Who desires mercy. Let us repent and seek closeness once more. Let us strive to repair broken or strained relationships in our lives. May we be enabled to keep journeying and to PROCEED, knowing God is with us and will take us where we need to go. He will not abandon His mission for us so let us not disregard His intentions for us.
‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. ‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. ‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD…Jeremiah 29; 11-14
The Exodus was at Pesach – Nissan 14
The arrival and revelation of Sinai is 50 days from then during Shavuot- Sivan 6
Resources: See homepage and My Resources entry. For this lesson I studied predominantly using Rabbi David Forhman’s Shattered Tablets and the Calf of Gold series on alephbet.org, Rabbi Shlomo Katz :http://www.shlomokatz.com/ and Rabbi Ari Kahn audio and text on Parasha Ki Tisa: http://arikahn.blogspot.com/search?q=Ki+tisa….and more.