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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review 17 Tamuz (2448)

Sin of the Golden Calf: Understanding the how and why and resulting Divine punishment

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I am the Lord, your G-d, Who has taken you out from the land of Egypt ... declares the First Commandment, enjoining us to use our powers of intellect and observation to recognize the hand of the Almighty in the plan of creation and the workings of nature. The Second Commandment decrees that, You shall have no other gods before Me, warning us that our relationship with the Almighty is personal and intimate, neither requiring nor allowing any intermediary. (Exodus 20:2-3)


In both Commandments, the Almighty addresses the Jewish people using the first person "I," or "Me." We find a difference, however, in the Third Commandment, which states that, You shall not take the Name of the L-rd, your G-d, in vain, abandoning the first person for the third person voice. (Ib. 20:7)


Why?


The Talmud describes how the first two times that G-d spoke to the Jewish nation, the spiritual intensity of the moment so overwhelmed the people that their souls flew from their physical bodies in an attempt to cleave to their Creator. The people literally died in one instant, only to be resurrected in the next, as the Almighty returned their souls to their bodies so that they might receive the next Commandment.


It happened once, then it happened again, and the people cried, "Enough!" The trauma of falling dead and returning instantaneously to life demanded more from them than they were willing to endure, and they protested that they could not go on. "Let Moses hear You speak," they pleaded to G-d, "and he will bring Your word down to us."


This request in itself was not sinful, but it became the seed from which transgression and disaster would soon sprout forth. For however traumatic or even painful their experience may have been, had they fully appreciated the exalted status G-d had conferred upon them by speaking to them "face to face," any discomfort associated with the process would have paled to insignificance. By seeking to distance themselves from G-d and requesting an intermediary, the people implicitly rejected the responsibility for which G-d had chosen them, forfeiting the priceless benefits their Creator had intended for them to have.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF INGRATITUDE
So Moses ascended the mountain alone to bring G-d's Torah down to the Jews. Through some miscommunication, the people understood that Moses was to return on the fortieth day, whereas he had meant that he would return after forty days. When Moses failed to come down from the mountain as expected, the Jews began to panic. Having discarded the direct relationship that G-d had offered them, they now felt lost without Moses as their intermediary.


Where would they find a replacement for Moses, and what would become of them without one?


At the height of their panic, a solution was proposed by members of the mixed multitude, the Egyptians who had joined the Jewish people as converts, not from purely spiritual motives but from a desire to attach themselves to the winning side. Since our intermediary, Moses, is gone, they argued, let us create another in his place. And, because they found themselves lacking the spiritual strength to connect with G-d on their own, they chose to fashion a representation of a young ox, the symbol of strength engraved upon the Almighty's holy throne.


Aaron, the brother of Moses, agreed to help them in an attempt to stall for time, hoping to forestall an even greater transgression until Moses could arrive and put a stop to the people's frenzy. But the people had worked themselves into such fervency that the project took on a life of its own. The next day, while Moses remained upon the mountain, 3000 of the mixed multitude began to worship the Calf.

COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY
If only 3000 actually worshipped the calf, why was the whole nation castigated and punished? Quite simply, because they didn't put a stop to it. In their hearts, the Jews sympathized with the worshipers of the Golden Calf. They too feared what would become of them without the leadership of Moses. And they too wanted desperately to entrust their fate to the hands of a new intermediary. Their knowledge of right and wrong withered before their fear and ultimately failed them. Consequently, because they knew the worship of the Calf was wrong, they shared in the sin for not preventing it from happening, even though they themselves did not take part in it.


And so, when Moses did return on the 17th day of the month of Tammuz, he realized immediately that he had only one way of impressing upon the Jews the gravity of what they had allowed to happen: he smashed the tablets of the Ten Commandments upon the ground, as if to tell the Jews that, in one impetuous moment, they had trampled upon the Torah, the word of G-d, the crown for which the Almighty had taken them out of slavery to set upon their heads, as if it were mere dust beneath their feet.


Even so, the sages teach that our response to sin is far more important in the eyes of G-d than whether or not we live free from sin. And so, in the moment of stunned silence that followed his smashing of the tablets, Moses cried out, "Whoever is for G-d, join with me!" (Ib. 32:26) Yet so profound was the people's sense of shame and guilt that they found themselves unable or unwilling to declare their loyalty to G-d, effectively refusing His invitation to repent. Only the tribe of Levi rallied to Moses and, upon his command, they put to death the 3000 who had worshipped the Golden Calf.


For this reason, G-d designated the tribe of Levi as the priestly tribe, to tend the tabernacle in the desert and minister in the Temple in Jerusalem. But for the rest of the people, the consequences of their complacency and their inaction would haunt them until their deaths. Indeed, the 17th of Tammuz would mark the first major rift between G-d and the Jewish people, the day when the nature of the relationship between G-d and His nation ceased to be primarily one where He reached down to them and become one where they must reach up toward Him.


The sin of the Golden Calf set the stage for the Jews' refusal to enter into the Land of Israel, for they lost confidence in their own merit. It became also a day associated with Jewish tragedy, from the cessation of the daily offering during the Babylonian siege of the First Temple to the breaching of the city walls during the Roman siege of the second. It remains a day of fasting, commemorating the suffering the Jewish people have brought upon themselves through their sins. But it contains a hopeful message as well, serving as a reminder of the redemptive power of sincere repentance.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis. Comment by clicking here.


Previously:

The day the sun stood still
Nemirov massacres and the Chmielnicki uprising
Independent Judea under Shimon HaMaccabee
The Great Revolt begins
Dedication of new walls of Jerusalem

© 2006, Rabbi Yonason Goldson