The Torah relates this week that as Moses did not return from Mt. Sinai, the people became frightened that they had no leader. And so they banded together and demanded of Aaron: “Make us a God who will go before us.” In other words, a god who can be seen and who will protect the people.
Aaron gives in, and the people bring their jewelry and gold which are melted and shaped into the form of a “golden calf”. The people then hold a joyous celebration as they worship the calf and offer sacrifices to it. All of this happens while Moses is on the mountain receiving the tablets of the Ten Commandments.
After forty days Moses does appear, only to be so overcome with disappointment and anger over what he sees that he takes the tablets and throws them to the ground, shattering them.
And I wonder: is this but an ancient story of long ago? Or is it not true that we too live among so-called “Golden Calves” and so hard is it to resist building and worshiping them.
Yes, we make a “Golden Calf” when we forget that the most precious things in life cannot be bought with gold or credit cards; genuine love, true friendships, a clear conscience, self-respect. We build a “Golden Calf” when we sacrifice our health or our moral integrity for wealth, power or fame.
Yes, the “Golden Calves” bring us moments of pleasure and satisfaction. But in the end, it is that which we cannot see or touch that is our hope and path to the most real and lasting fulfillment.