Dvar Torah for Parshat Ki Tisa


Based on Likutey Halakhot, Birkhot HaReiach 4:33

"The people realized that Moshe was late in coming down from the mountain [Sinai]. [They] came to Aharon and said to him, '...make us a god... for this man Moshe, who took us out of Egypt, we don't know what happened to him'" (Exodus 32:1).

Without question, the sin of the golden calf was a seminal event in the history of mankind. If we stop and reflect for a moment we see the parallel between this sin and one that preceded it by thousands of years.

In the entire extravagant spectacle of creation only man has free will. No angel, not even of the highest order, has it. Neither do animals or plants. Hashem created the universe for man's benefit, so that he could exercise his free will in a proper way and thereby earn eternal reward. That is also why Hashem renews Creation day in and day out.

When Adam was created he was untainted by the evil inclination. The temptation that challenged him was external. Nonetheless he succumbed and ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. At that point the evil inclination became a permanent boarder within man, and within all mankind. Our Sages teach us that when the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai the evil inclination left them. He moved back in when the golden calf was made.

The Jewish people knew clearly that God had performed for them all the miracles they had witnessed: the Ten Plagues, the splitting of the Red Sea, the manna, and the hearing sights and seeing sounds of the Giving of the Torah. They appreciated Moshe Rabbeinu's (our teacher) role in making all those events come about and believed in his prophetic abilities. For even in Egypt they were graced by the presence, prophecies and inspiration that Aharon the Kohen gave them. Still, they saw that Aharon the Kohen could not bring them out whereas Moshe Rabbeinu could. With all this in mind the question is begging to be asked:


But, "A person's evil inclination daily threatens to overpower him. If God doesn't help [the person] he won't win" (Sukkah 52b). To maintain the balance necessary for man's free will to remain in tact, Hashem allows the forces of evil great leeway to lead man astray. And so it was then.

Rashi (loc. cit.) tells us that the day the calf was made was a dark and stormy day. The hour was late. There was a false report that Moshe Rabbeinu had died. There was a sufficient amount of confusion in the air to offset the clarity of mind the Jews usually had which enabled them to live by their true beliefs. Thus they chose wrongly. What can we do when confronted with this sort of confusion?

We must use the remnant of faith we gained at the Torah-giving. As mentioned before, when we received the Torah we attained, both as a people and as individuals, a very high spiritual level. God Himself spoke to each and every one of us (can't get much higher than that!). Nonetheless, all of our preparations for that event would not have borne fruit had they not been directed and crowned by Moshe Rabbeinu's own. His work brought about the revelation of Godliness, the teachings of the Torah, which we knew and believed.

When the Jews panicked and thought Moshe Rabbeinu was gone, instead of making the calf they should have held on to Moshe Rabbeinu's teaching: What did he teach us that we can apply in this situation? Let us ask Aharon and Yehoshua (Joshua), who learned from him even more than we, to show us how Moshe Rabbeinu's lessons are still applicable. And even if they would have been unable to recall any specific teaching they should have held on to their faith in Moshe Rabbeinu, and in themselves: We once knew what was the right thing to do. Let's wait until our minds are again clear so that we may choose correctly. Let us not choose out of confusion.

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!