Ki Tissa – Was It Simply a Golden Calf?

In this week’s Parsha, Ki Tissa, occurs the Jewish nation’s great sin in the desert, the worship of the Golden Calf. Much has been written and taught about this moment of spiritual downfall, following right on the heels of the loftiest moment in history, receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The juxtaposition of the two is not just incongruous but downright inexplicable. But that is if we read the narrative through childish eyes. Clearly a people who were elevated to the highest peaks of spiritual endowment at Sinai could not have sunken to mere metallic idol worship of a gold-plated, even 18 carat gilded sculpture of a cow. The deeper teachings of Jewish spirituality inform us that we were indeed at Sinai at the highest levels of spiritual prowess, to the point that our adepts were able to draw down, from heavenly spheres, the very Face of the Ox that is one of the four images that surrounds the heavenly throne -the other three being the Face of the Lion, the Face of the Eagle and the Face of Man. (This is all described later in Ezekiel’s vision). This profound Kabbalistic teaching about the Golden Calf , that it was not just a molten gold ornament, worshipped because Moses was a little late in coming down the mountain making the people mistakenly think that he had been lost to us. The people needed a point of interface with G-d, in the absence of Moses, to maintain the unique connection made at Mt. Sinai. They therefore drew down an artefact from the highest levels of the spiritual cosmos, which possessed Divine powers and aptitudes. In this way they sought connectedness with G-d. Nevertheless, it was still characterized as idol worship because nothing can take the place of direct connection to G-d or G-d’s appointee such as Moses, and the people were therefore severely punished Irrespective, the point is that we should not run away with a child-like impression of the hidden depths implicit in the Torah. Rather, study it with learned teachers and especially those endowed with knowledge of spiritual insights into the Torah, and we should all grow from beyond immature child-like perceptions of Torah’s teachings, achieving a degree of true sophistication and depth.