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During the middle ages, it was commonly believed that Jews killed Christian babies to use their blood for the making of Matzo. In that period the population of Europe was halved by the “Black Death”… Bubonic Plague. The disease was carried by rats who were infested by a flea which carried the illness.

The rumour circulated that the Jews were in fact poisoning the wells and causing the plague. The Jews were said to carry the poison in little “Black square leather boxes” which they carried with them. As male Jews carried their Tefilin with them, the “Proof” was readily available. The “King David” school in Liverpool once invited a Lutheran Pastor to give the assembly. He stated that “The road to Auschwitz was built on the paving stones of Christianity.”

It should be the case that accusations, without all of the evidence being supplied and examined, is something which is innately abhorrent to Jews.

The claim that the Jews failed at their first hurdle in the making of the “Golden Calf” is commonly made. What is the evidence?

Exodus Chpt 32 Vs. 1-8….

“And the people saw that Moses was delayed in descending from the mountain. And the people gathered against Aaron and they Said to him “Get up, make for us an Elohim which will go before us, because this Moses the man who took us out from Egypt, we don’t know what has become of him.”

And Aaron said break off the golden earrings from your wives and your sons and your daughters ears and bring them to me.

And all the people broke off their earrings and they brought them to Aaron.

And he took them from their hands and he marked them with a tool and they made a molten calf And they said these are your Elokim Israel who took you out from Egypt.

And Aaron saw and he built an Altar before it and he said tomorrow will be a festival to G-d

And the people rose up early and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings and they sat to eat and they drank and they rose up L’Tsachaik”

The first piece of the story that a thinking mind will notice, is the featuring of the word the “people.” Usually the verse would begin with “And the Children of Israel saw” who are these people? Whoever they are, they gather “against” Aaron and tell him to get up and make them an Elohim. Surely a singular way to address the second greatest Jewish leader. The instruction itself however seems irreversibly to condemn the Jews, “Make us an Elohim ( one of the Hebrew names for G-d )”

I have resisted translating the word Elohim for the simple reason that it resists translation. The reason is that it has three translations. It can means “G-d” it can also mean “Judge” it also means “Power”.

The accusation of the Jews failure, hinges on which of the three translations was meant here. The rest of the verse makes it quite clear, ” Which will go before us” The “people” are looking for an Elohim not to worship or pray too simply one which will lead them. It is to be a replacement for Moses, their previous leader.

It is interesting to note, that off all the accusations which our enemies levelled against us over the millennia, no one accused us of thinking Moses was a God. We rebelled against him too often for that to be possible. The verse goes on to make this point crystal clear ” Because this Moses the man.” They are looking for a replacement for Moses the man, not a G-d.

The obvious question arises, why not replace Moses with Aaron. The King is dead, long live the King. Their reason is simple, he too is a man. Men die! life is a terminal condition. They are searching for a leader which will not wear out, a gold statue! This idea is certainly not necessarily idolatrous. In the previous weeks Sedra we read that G-d would speak to Moses from between the wings of the Cherubs on the lid of the Ark. Cherubs are Gold statues! So what have they done wrong?

Aaron’s tactic is to play for time. He asks not for their rings but those of their families. He knows the likely reaction to a request from an “earringed husband” for his wife’s jewellery. The “people” have to bring their own Jewellery.

In verse 4, Aaron takes the gold from them and fashions it with a tool. The verse then crucially reports, “And theymade a molten calf and said, These are your Elokim Israel.”

Who is speaking here? It cannot be Jews or they would say “Our Elokim”. This at last reveals the identity of the “People”, they are the mixed multitude of Egyptians who had followed the Jews out from Egypt.

In verse 7, this revelation is reinforced…..

” And G-d spoke to Moses and said, “Go get down because your people have acted destructively whom you took out from Egypt”

It was the people whom Moses had taken out from Egypt, not those whom G-d had taken out. G-d had taken out the Jews!

The questions remain as to why the golden calf was such a terrible crime and why Aaron simply did not refuse to become involved.

G-d’s fury towards the Jews for tolerating this development, is only assuaged by Moshe using “every trick in the book.” He pleads, reasons and even demands that G-d doesn’t destroy the Jews. TheTalmudsays that prior to approaching Aaron to make the Golden Calf they had first asked “Hur” Moses and Aaron’s nephew. He had refused and been killed as a result. Aaron’s knows that it would be easy for him to refuse and suffer the consequences. To participate in the event in order to delay it will mean that his reputation becomes tarnished. But It means that the Jews have a chance to survive this episode. If Aaron is killed, not even Moshe will be able to have them forgiven.

If however, the Golden Calf is merely anticipating the gold statues of the Ark, through which G-d spoke to the Jews, what was so wrong?

The answer as Rabbi Dessler points out is that, although the Golden Calf in itself was not necessarily an act of idolatry, that’s where it led. Even though it resembles in every respect the structure they were meant to receive. Even though it was to perform the function of the structure they were meant to receive. There wasa huge difference. G-d had not licensed this gold statue.

When people start to make up their own “Judaism” no matter how closely it resembles the authentic item, it inevitably degenerates to something quite alien and destructive.

I heard a radio documentary recently which suggested that 90% of aircraft accidents are due to forged and counterfeit parts. The far east has an industry in forging the extremely expensive engine parts for Boeing etc. These parts have forged documentation and resemble in every respect a genuine bolt or rotor blade. Because they are not the real parts, they fail with disastrous results. The Golden Calf established this principal at the beginning of the story of the Jewish people.

Don’t tamper, edit or create “your Judaism” stick with G-d’s.

Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein has thrilled audiences from Jerusalem to Manchester and Johannesburg to Los Angeles. There are two reasons for his success. One is a mastery of sources in Jewish philosophy and his understanding of contemporary events. The other is his unique delivery…If you have the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom…do not miss it!

Rabbi Professor Dovid Gottlieb

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