The Golden Calf
||Meanwhile, the people began to realize that Moses was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aaron and said to him, 'Make us an oracle to lead us. We have no idea what happened to Moses, the man who brought us out of Egypt.'
||'Take the rings off the ears of your wives and children,' replied Aaron. 'Bring them to me.'
||All the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.
||He took [the rings] from the people, and had someone form [the gold] in a mold, casting it into a calf. [Some of the people began to] say, 'This, Israel, is your god, who brought you out of Egypt.'
||When Aaron saw [this], he built an altar before [the calf]. Aaron made an announcement and said, 'Tomorrow, there will be a festival to God.'
||Getting up early the next morning, [the people] sacrificed burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. The people sat down to eat and drink, and then got up to enjoy themselves.
||God declared to Moses, 'Go down, for the people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt.
||They have been quick to leave the way that I ordered them to follow, and they have made themselves a cast-metal calf. They have bowed down and offered sacrifice to it, exclaiming, 'This, Israel, is your god, who brought you out of Egypt.'
||God then said to Moses, 'I have observed the people, and they are an unbending group.
||Now do not try to stop Me when I unleash my wrath against them to destroy them. I will then make you into a great nation.'
||Moses began to plead before God his Lord. He said, 'O God, why unleash Your wrath against Your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a show of force?
||Why should Egypt be able to say that You took them out with evil intentions, to kill them in the hill country and wipe them out from the face of the earth. Withdraw Your display of anger, and refrain from doing evil to Your people.
||'Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You swore to them by Your very essence, and declared that You would make their descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky, giving their descendants the land You promised, so that they would be able to occupy it forever.'
||God refrained from doing the evil that He planned for His people.
||Moses turned around, and began going down the mountain with the two Tablets of Testimony in his hand. They were tablets written on both sides, with the writing visible from either side.
||The Tablets were made by God and written with God's script engraved on the Tablets.
||Joshua heard the sound of the people rejoicing, and he said to Moses, 'It sounds as though there is a battle going on in the camp!'
||'It is not the song of victory,' replied [Moses], 'nor the dirge of the defeated. What I hear is just plain singing'.
||As he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses displayed anger, and threw down the tablets that were in his hand, shattering them at the foot of the mountain.
||He took the calf that the [people] had made, and burned it in fire, grinding it into fine powder. He then scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.
||Moses said to Aaron, 'What did the people do to you, that you allowed them to commit such a great sin?'
||'Do not be angry, my lord,' replied Aaron, 'but you must realize that the people have bad tendencies.
||They said to me, 'Make an oracle to lead us, since we do not know what happened to Moses, the man who took us out of Egypt.'
||When I responded to them, 'Who has gold?' they took it off and gave it to me. I threw the gold into the fire and the result was this calf.'
||Moses realized that the people had actually been restrained. Aaron had restrained them, doing only a small part of what the outspoken ones [had demanded].
||Moses stood up at the camp's entrance and announced, 'Whoever is for God, join me!' All the Levites gathered around him.
||He said to them, 'This is what God, Lord of Israel, says: Let each man put on his sword, and go from one gate to the other in the camp. Let each one kill [all those involved in the idolatory], even his own brother, close friend, or relative.'
||The Levites did as Moses had ordered, and approximately 3000 people were killed that day.
||Moses said, 'Today you can be ordained [as a tribe dedicated] to God with a special blessing. Men have [been willing to kill even] their own sons and brothers [at God's command].'
||The next day, Moses said to the people, 'You have committed a terrible sin. Now I will go back up to God and try to gain atonement for your crime.'
||Moses went back up to God, and he said, 'The people have committed a terrible sin by making a golden idol.
||Now, if You would, please forgive their sin. If not, You can blot me out from the book that You have written.'
||God replied to Moses, 'I will blot out from My book those who have sinned against Me.
||Now go; you still have to lead the people to [the place] that I described to you. I will send My angel before you. Still, when I grant special providence to the people, I will take this sin of theirs into account.'
||God then struck the people with a plague because of the calf that Aaron had made.
(Rashbam; Ralbag; cf. Ramban; Ibn Ezra; Kuzari 1:96). Or, 'god' (Targum).
|form...in a mold.|
(Saadia; Ibn Ezra; Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim). Or, 'formed it with a goldsmith's tool' (Rashi), or 'bound in a sheet' (Rashi).
|Some of the people...|
According to some, he saw Chur (see Exodus 17:10, 31:2) being killed for trying to prevent the making of the Golden Calf (Sanhedrin 7a; Targum Yonathan; Rashi).
Or, 'sacrifice' (See note on Exodus 23:18).
This occurred on 17 Tammuz, a day that would later be a time of mourning (Seder Olam 6; Taanith 26b).
|show of force|
Literally, 'mighty hand' (see Exodus 6:1).
Actually, there is a direct quote here.
|with evil intentions|
Or, 'against the power of Ra' (see note on Exodus 10:10).
Actually a direct quote.
See Exodus 24:13.
(Radak, Sherashim). Or, 'shout' (Rashi).
[Shemoth Rabbah 41:1; Ramban). Or, 'continued Joshua' (Saadia; Ibn Ezra).
Or, 'drums' (see note on Exodus 15:20).
Of the brook (Deuteronomy 9:21).
|made the Israelites drink it|
Like a suspected adulteress; Numbers 5:24 ff.
|have bad tendencies|
(Rashi). Or, 'are among evildoers' (Ibn Ezra, end of Exodus 31:18).
See note on Exodus 32:1.
(Ralbag). Or, 'exposed' (Rashi; Sforno; Ibn Janach); 'exposed to harm' (Abarbanel); 'undisciplined' (Rashbam; Chizzkuni); 'unrestrained' (Hirsch); 'going the wrong way' (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim).
|doing only a small part|
(Ralbag; Hirsch; cf. Shabbath 119a). Or, 'so as to be derided' (Radak, Sherashim; Rashi).
(Ralbag; Hirsch). Or, 'enemies' (Rashi; Ibn Ezra; Radak, Sherashim to 7).
(Ralbag). Or, 'Moses saw that the people had been exposed; for Aaron had exposed them and they could be the subject of derision to their enemies' (Rashi). Or, 'Moses saw that the people were unrestrained, since Aaron had shown their lack of restraint to some degree when they stood up against him' (Hirsch). Or, 'Moses saw that the people were going the wrong way, because Aaron had allowed them to revert...' (Ibn Janach; Radak, Sherashim).
|all those involved...|
(Rashi; Sforno). Literally, 'fill your hands;' see Exodus 28:41. Or, 'inaugurate yourselves with a sacrifice' (Onkelos); 'bring a sacrifice as atonement [for the act of killing]' (Targum Yonathan; or 'fulfill your obligation, since you must kill your own sons and brothers' (Saadia). It is here that the Levites gained their special status (Rashi).
|went back up...|
This was on 18 Tammuz (Seder Olam 6) or 19 Tammuz (Rashi on Exodus 33:11). Moses then remained on the mountain for an additional 40 days (cf. Deuteronomy 9:25). According to some, however, Moses ascended for only a short while, and then prayed for 40 days in the camp (Pirkey Rabbi Eliezer 46; Radal ad loc. 46:13; Ramban on Exodus 33:11).
An allegory meaning, 'erase me from Your memory' (Moreh Nevukhim 2:47), or, 'blot me out from all creation' (Ralbag). Others see it as meaning, 'blot me out from the book of life,' that is, 'kill me' (Abarbanel; cf. Targum Yonathan; Rosh HaShanah 16b). Alternatively, the 'book' denotes the Torah itself (Rashi).
|I will send My angel...|
See note on Exodus 23:20.