Parashat Ki Tisa – When they traveled into misleading reassurance
When faced with a near-death experience, one should internalize what happened, and value the creator who gave him a second chance. However, Bnei Yisrael did not internalize the actual deaths that occurred to them at Har Sinai, just 40 days prior to the event of the Golden Calf. Despite being on a spiritual level worthy enough to receive the Torah, they died when Hashem gave over the first two of the ten commandments. However, the death was not internalized when they were brought back by Hashem, because 40 days later, they did the exact thing they died from hearing: Do not have any other G-d’s.
This was a blow directly to Hashem’s face, especially considering they just saw him reveal himself. When a boss gives over an order to his employee, the employee is expected to do it. However, they have failed to act on three of the ten commandments: Murdering, Adultery and Idol Worshipping
One of the reasons Aharon agreed to help Israel commit the sin was because of fear of getting murdered, after seeing what they did to his nephew Hur. Being one of the two temporary leaders while Moshe went up to get the tablets, Hur was approached as well to build the calf. His resistance, however, led to his demise.
וְאוֹתוֹ הַיּוֹם יוֹם אַרְבָּעִים הָיָה בְּשֵׁשׁ שָׁעוֹת בַּיּוֹם. אָמְרוּ לָהֶם אַהֲרֹן וְחוּר: עַכְשָׁו יוֹרֵד מִן הָהָר, לֹא הִשְׁגִּיחוּ. וְיֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים: שֶׁעָמַד שָׂטָן וְהֶרְאָה לָהֶם דְּמוּת מִטָּתוֹ מִן הָהָר, מִמַּה שֶּׁאָמְרוּ: כִּי זֶה מֹשֶׁה הָאִישׁ. מִיָּד עָמַד חוּר וְגָעַר בָּהֶם. עָמְדוּ עָלָיו וַהֲרָגוּהוּ. כְּשֶׁרָאָה אַהֲרֹן כָּךְ, נִתְיָרֵא וְהִתְחִיל מַעֲסִיקָן בִּדְבָרִים, וְהֵם אוֹמְרִים לוֹ: קוּם עֲשֵׂה לָנוּ אֱלֹהִים. וְהַכֹּל גָּלוּי לִפְנֵי מִי שֶׁאָמַר וְהָיָה הָעוֹלָם מַה הֵם מְבַקְּשִׁים.
When Moses failed to return by the fortieth day and the sixth hour of that day, Aaron and Hur told them: “He is now descending the mountain,” (but) they did not pay attention. Some say that Satan arose and showed them the likeness of his bier on the mountain, and that is why they said: For this man Moses (ibid., v. 1).29 Then Hur stepped forward and rebuked them. Forthwith they turned against him and slew him. When Aaron witnessed this he became terrified and sought to occupy them with other matters. But they cried out: Up, make us a god (ibid.). All that they demanded was known to the Holy One Who Spoke and the World Came into Being.Midrash Tanchuma (Ki Tisa) 19:2
Aside from filling one’s food desires with enjoyment, they were sexually immoral at the party that occured the following day. Adultery was committed, one of the ten things they heard not to do not even 6 full weeks prior:
לצחק. יֵשׁ בְּמַשְׁמַע הַזֶּה גִּלּוּי עֲרָיוֹת, כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּ’ לְצַחֶק בִּי (בראשית ל”ט),
לצחק TO PLAY — There is implied in this term besides idolatry also sexual immorality, — as we find the word used in, (Genesis 39:17) “to mock (לצחק) me” where unchastity is meant as is evident from the context2nd Rashi on Exodus 32:6
Finally, the obvious; do not serve idols. The intention of creating this idol by most of Bnei Yisrael was not to replace Hashem, yet to replace Moshe as an intermediary between Hashem and the common nation. However, right intentions don’t diminish a wrong act, and unfortunately, the Erev Rav did not have this intention.
As a reminder, this happened only 40 days after they were proven that Hashem is real and accurate. How did they fall down to such a low level after being worthy enough of receiving the “We will do and we will hear” crowns?
Our Neshama has two parts; The Yetzer Hatov and Yetzer Hara. We continuously face a daily struggle to not play into the hands of the Yetzer Hara, which pushes us to do bad continuously. Indeed, the stronger the person is, the stronger the struggle to do the right thing becomes.
With this concept in mind, we can reword the statement. Instead of saying “the Jews fell despite being on such a high level”, we should be saying “the Jews fell because they were on such a high level”.
The Yetzer Hara is always looking to attack you, even if it’s unreasonable. However, by paying attention to our actions, we should be able to overcome the challenge and hopefully be able to come as close as possible to be perfect, but never to think that we are.