Parashat Ki Tissa

Go Down, Moses!

The incident of the Golden Calf teaches each of us the importance of taking responsibility for our actions and inspires us to make our communities homes of sacredness.

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Provided by Hillel’s Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, which creates educational resources for Jewish organizations on college campuses.

These last weeks Moses has been atop the mountain gathering information from God about the building of the tabernacle and all of its features. It has been an awesome and holy experience for him atop Mount Sinai. Meanwhile, down below, the people are getting anxious waiting for Moses. "He said 40 days! Where is he?" The people begin to question their leadership. Here is what happens:

Exodus 32:1-7

1. When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, the people gathered against Aaron and said to him, "Come make us a god who shall go before us, for that man Moses, who brought us from the land of Egypt we do not know what has happened to him."

2. Aaron said to them, "Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me."

3. And all the people took off the gold rings that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.

4. This he took from them and cast in a mold and made it into a molten calf. And they exclaimed, "This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!"

charlton heston ten commandments5. When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron announced: "Tomorrow shall be a festival of YHWH!"

6. 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.

7. YHWH spoke to Moses, "GO, GO DOWN, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted basely..."

Your Torah Navigator

1. Why did the people build the golden calf

2. Why did Aaron help them?

3. Was Moses a good leader in this situation?

4. Was Aaron a good leader in this situation?

Rashi 32:7

And YHWH spoke, "spoke" and not "said." This implies rough speech [God spoke (roughly) to Moses]... GO, GO DOWN from your high position; I have given you distinction only for their sake! At that moment Moses was excommunicated by a decree of the heavenly court.

Your Rashi Navigator

1. Even God is angry with Moses. Why is God angry?

2. Who is at fault here? Moses? Aaron? The people?

3. What could have been done differently by Moses, Aaron, or the community?

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Rabbi Andrea Steinberger serves as a rabbi at the Hillel Foundation at the University of Wisconsin. Rabbi Steinberger received her ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1997 and her BA from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.