The Golden Calf and the idolatry of the people

“For they will lust after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and invite you, and you will eat of their sacrifices”

Professor Gerald Aranoff, | updated: 08:06

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

The sin of the Golden Calf

“Early next day, the people offered up burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; they sat down to eat and drink, and then rose to dance לצחק.” (Exodus 32:6)

Rashi says that three grievous violations occurred here: 1) murder of Hur, 2) adultery/immorality as in (“Then she told him the same story, saying, The Hebrew slave whom you brought into our house came to me to dally with me לצחק בי; (Genesis 39:17)), and 3) idolatry, the sacrifices to the Golden Calf.

In the midrash Aaron expressed astonishment that the evil magicians ערב רב from Egypt had a complete Golden Calf ready. Megilah 25b:

 “It has been taught: A man should always be careful in wording his answers, because on the ground of the answer which Aaron made to Moses the unbelievers were able to deny [God], as it says “They said to me, Make us a god to lead us; for that man Moses, who brought us from the land of Egypt—we do not know what has happened to him. So I said to them, Whoever has gold, take it off! They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!” (Exodus 32:23-24).”

Egypt was infamous for its immorality/licentiousness

In Leviticus God warns us not follow the abhorrent practices of Egypt “You shall keep My charge not to engage in any of the abhorrent practices that were carried on before you, and you shall not defile yourselves through them: I the Lord am your God.” (Leviticus 18:30).

My Theory; Similarity of Sin of Baal-Peor and Sin of Golden Calf

Balaam counselled the women of Moab and Midian to invite Jews to a sacrificial festival to cause the ruin of these Jews.

“Yet they are the very ones who, at the bidding of Balaam, induced the Israelites to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor למסר מעל בה' על דבר פעור, so that the Lord’s community was struck by the plague. (Numbers 31:16)

Near the end of the parshah:

“He said: I hereby make a covenant. Before all your people I will work such wonders as have not been wrought on all the earth or in any nation; and all the people who are with you [lit. in whose midst you are] shall see how awesome are the Lord’s deeds which I will perform for you. Mark well what I command you this day. I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. Beware of making a covenant with the inhabitants of the land against which you are advancing, lest they be a snare in your midst. No, you must tear down their altars, smash their pillars, and cut down their sacred posts; for you must not worship any other god, because the Lord, whose name is Impassioned, is an impassioned God. You must not make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for they will lust after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and invite you, and you will eat of their sacrifices. And when you take wives from among their daughters for your sons, their daughters will lust after their gods and will cause your sons to lust after their gods.” (Exodus 34:10-16).

Note: “for they will lust after their gods and sacrifice to their gods and invite you, and you will eat of their sacrifices.”  This is the sin of Baal-Peor: “While Israel was staying at Shittim, the people profaned themselves by whoring [others began to commit harlotry] with the Moabite women, who invited the people to the sacrifices for their god. The people partook of them and worshiped that god.” (Numbers 25:1-2).

My theory is that among Jews at that time observed well the command “No Israelite woman shall be a cult prostitute קדשה, nor shall any Israelite man be a cult prostitute קדש.” (Deuteronomy 23:18).  The Jews kept records of family trees.

The rabbinic view is that the Torah attests that the census/enrollment records were true.

God created men with יצר הרע

God created Jewish men to have a huge יצר הרע for the women  of the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  In Egypt, even the saintly Joseph, in the midrash, had a huge יצר הרע for the wife of Potifar. This is how God created mankind.

Rabbis decry Jewish men to have sex with non-Jewish women

Megilah 25a

“IF ONE SAYS, AND THOU SHALT NOT GIVE ANY OF THY SEED TO SET THEM APART etc. In the school of R. Ishmael it was stated: The text speaks of an Israelite who has intercourse with a Cuthean woman and begets from her a son for idolatry.”

Wow Rabbi Ishmael says that אשר יתן לזרעו למלך refers to a Jew who has sex with a non-Jewess and begets from her a son.

The Gamara reports on an attempt to nullify the יצר הרע

Yoma 69b:

“The prophet said unto them: Cast him into a leaden pot, closing its opening with lead. Because lead absorbs the voice, as it is said: “That, he said, is Wickedness הרשעה; and, thrusting her down into the tub, he pressed the leaden weight into its mouth.” (Zecharia 5:8). They said: Since this is a time of Grace, let us pray for mercy for the Tempter to evil. [The evil desire, for idolatry is also the evil desire for immorality. The two were found to go hand in hand.] They prayed for mercy, and he was handed over to them. He said to them: Realize that if you kill him, the world goes down. They imprisoned him for three days, then looked in the whole land of Israel for a fresh egg and could not find it.”

Without יצר הרע there would be no reproduction at all!

Another reason to make aliya: Israel is safe regarding danger of assimilation

American, French, English etc Jews, come to Israel. “Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and the Lebanon. But the Lord was wrathful with me on your account and would not listen to me. The Lord said to me, Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again!” (Deuteronomy 3:25-26).

Thank God Jews, today, can make aliya to Israel.