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When a person is happy and optimistic their entire outlook is one of happiness and positivity. Good things will happen!

By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is Ki Tisa (30:11-34:35) and in it we read about the infamous episode of the Golden Calf. The people who saw the 10 plagues, the splitting of the sea, the death of the Egyptians, the Revelation at Sinai (and more), turn to a Golden Calf just because Moses seemed to be a bit late from his return from the mountain.

This doesn’t make much sense! What is going on here?

Well, one unexpected interpretation is that the creation of the Golden Calf was not an act of idolatry at all, as is commonly assumed! According to this approach, the Golden Calf was to be an intermediary, not a God. A go-between of sorts between the people and God Himself. Just like Moses was, to some extent. The people believed that the Divine spirit would descend upon their Golden Calf and in this way they would be closer to Him.

This is a somewhat reasonable take on things. But if they wanted an intermediary, why did they create an inanimate object? Why didn’t they just go to the #2 man (Aaron) and or the #3 man (Chur) and appoint them as leader in place of Moses? Why did they prefer a molten image?

It is explained that they didn’t trust anyone to assume the role of new leader. People are corrupt, they can be easily swayed, and who knows when they’re being honest. Moses was an exception, of course, because he was chosen by God. Failing a Divine appointee, they did not want to entrust the leadership with a mortal being. And hence, the Golden Calf.

Looking at the Golden Calf episode in this way can be seen as a noble effort…though terribly misguided. God Himself has recently told them, “Molten gods you shall not make for yourselves.”

It is forbidden to transgress God’s law no matter how noble the cause.

So how did this all happen so quickly? How were the people able to commit such a grave sin so quickly after the Revelation?

We are told that it was Satan that had the people believe that Moses was dead and not going to return. He showed the people an image of a dead Moses lying in a coffin. Satan told the people that Moses had died. Now considering that they believed that Moses should have returned earlier (a mere 6 hours earlier), the people believed Satan, and became depressed and despondent.

When a person is down, depressed, and desperate, anything can happen. It can make no difference what happened or what you experienced a short while ago. Once a person loses hope and becomes depressed, anything can happen. A person can be easily led down dangerous paths. When we have pressures and stress, nothing is sacred, and no one is safe.

Happiness and positivity are not only vital in life, but also vital in our service of God. As Scripture tells us many times, “Serve God with joy and happiness.” When a person is happy and optimistic their entire outlook is one of happiness and positivity. Good things will happen. But when the reverse is true, we are not even protected from idolatry.

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.

The Giving Attitude Towards Charity

Your Predestined Income Will Always Be Yours

The Lesson of the Golden Calf

No Magic Fixes or Instant Holiness in Judaism

Discover Your Inspiration – and Run with it!

The Golden Calf Reveals the Secret to Golden Relationships

The Golden Calf: Misguided Passion or Ultimate Betrayal of G-d?