Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Golden calf was an assistant G-d?!

 Devarim Rabbah (01:02) R. Isaac said: When Israel made the Golden Calf, the Holy One, blessed be He, desired to destroy them, whereupon Moses said to Him: ‘Master of the Universe! This Calf will be of great help to Thee.’ God then asked him, ‘How can it help Me?’ Thereupon Moses replied: ‘Thou causest rain to fall, the Calf will produce dew; Thou bringest out the winds, the Calf will bring out lightnings.’ Said God to Moses: ' So you also are going astray after the Calf! ' Whereupon Moses exclaimed before God: ' Then," Why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people" seeing that the Calf is nought?’ To Israel, however, he said: ' Ye have sinned a great sin.’ 

Bamidbar Rabbah (02:15) Moses’ plea: Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, etc. . Moses suggested: ‘This calf which Israel have made can now be of assistance to Thee.’ He can send down rain while Thou wilt produce the dew! ‘‘But,’ replied the Holy One, blessed be He, ‘is there any such hope from him?’ ‘Then,’ came Moses’ retort, ‘if there is no substance in him, why art Thou wroth? ' ‘Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people... wherefore should the Egyptians speak... For evil did He bring them forth... Remember Abraham,’ etc. (ib.11 ff.). What follows in the text? And the Lord repented of the evil which He said He would do unto His people (ib. 14). ‘His people.’ Thus has been explained the text, ‘And it shall come to pass that, instead of that which was said to them,’ etc.

Shemos Rabbah (43:06) WHY, O LORD, DOTH THY WRATH WAX HOT AGAINST THY PEOPLE? R. Nehemiah said: When Israel committed that act, Moses arose to appease God and said: ‘Lord of the Universe! They have given Thee an assistant yet Thou art annoyed with them? Why, this Calf which they have made will be Thy assistant; Thou wilt cause the sun to rise while it will cause the moon to rise. Thou wilt look after the stars and it will see to the constellations; Thou wilt cause the dew to descend and it will cause the winds to blow; Thou wilt make the rains to come down, while it will be responsible for the growth of plants.’ Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to him: ' Moses, thou dost err as they do, for surely there is nothing real in it.’

Yalkut Shimoni (795)ד"א מהו אחרי, כביכול משה שהוכיח אותי אחר ישראל והוכיח לישראל אחרי. לישראל אמר אתם חטאתם חטאה גדולה. להקב"ה מר למה ה' יחרה אפך, מהו למה, אמר לפניו העגל הזה טוב הוא לך לסייע לך, אמר הקב"ה מה מסייע לי, א"ל משה אם אתה מוריד גשמים הו מוריד טללים, אתה מוצא את הרוחות והוא מוציא את הברקים, אמר לו משה הקב"ה אף אתה טועה בעגל, אמר משה רבש"ע א"כ למה ה' יחרה אפך בעמך, ולישראל אומר אתם חטאתם חטאה גדולה, משל למה הדבר דומה למלך שכעס על אשתו וטרדה והוציאה מביתו, כששמעו השושבינין הלכו אצל המלך ואמרו לו יאמרו כך אדם עושה לאשתו מה עשתה לך, והלכו אצלה ואמרו לה עד מתי את מכעסת אותו, קדמותך הוא תנינותך הוא. ד"א אלה הדברים ראויות היו התוכחות לומר על פי בלעם והברכות ע"פ משה, [אלא] אלו הוכיחן בלעם היו ישראל אומרים שונא מוכיחנו, ואלו ברכן משה היו אומות העולם אומרים אוהבם ברכם, אלא אמר הקב"ה יוכיחן משה שאוהבם ויברכם בלעם ששונאם כדי שיתבררו התוכחות והברכות ביד ישראל.

Tanchuma (Ki Tisa 22:2) Thereupon Moses stood before the Holy One, blessed be He, and asked: “Wherein am I guilty?” He replied: “Your people have dealt corruptly.” “My people,” Moses responded; “they are Your people and Your inheritance which You did redeem with Your own power. But what is their sin?” The Holy One, blessed be He, replied: “They exchanged their glory for the likeness of an ox that eateth.” Whereupon Moses said: “Master of the Universe, are You indeed jealous of an ox? Is he Your helper? Do You bring the winds while he causes the rain to fall? Do You make the sun shine, and he the moon to glow? Do You cause the trees to grow, and he the blossoms to sprout? After all, the ox is powerless; it merely eats grass and then is slaughtered. Lord, why doth Thy wrath wax against thy people? (Exod. 32:11).” He replied: “Is it honoring Me when they prostrate themselves before it and offer sacrifices to it? I have watched this people, and it is a stiff-necked people. Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot (ibid., vv. 9–10).” From this verse you may infer that the Holy One, blessed be He, is suggesting to Moses that he should plead for mercy in their behalf, since it is said: And I will make of thee a great nation (ibid., v. 10).

Ramban (Shemos 32:11) ETERNAL, WHY DOTH THY WRATH WAX HOT AGAINST THY PEOPLE? Now when Moses prayed about this great sin, it would have been fitting that he do so by way of confession and supplication, similar to what he said later on, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and just as Ezra prayed and confessed because of the faithlessness of them of the captivity, and there is no reason why he should say, why doth the Eternal etc.? Our Rabbis, prompted by this difficulty have in various homiletic ways tried to mention several reasons for Moses’ minimizing the sin before Him.

Berachos (32a) Moses spoke insolently towards heaven The school of R. Jannai learnt it from here: And Di-Zahab. What is ‘ And Di-Zahab’? They said in the school of R. Jannai: Thus spoke Moses before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, the silver and gold which Thou didst shower on Israel until they said, Enough, that it was which led to their making the Calf. 


  1. This is not at all convincing

  2. Obviously these conversations cannot be understood on a simple level. Moshe playing "Aha!" with God is far more problematic if you do.
    The pattern is simple:
    M: All right, so the calf can be Your helper!
    G: You think it has the power to help Me? it's worthless.
    M: Then why are you being so jealous of something that's worthless?

  3. What is not convincing ?
    That Moshe clearly claimed in multiple sources that Calf should be an assistant deity?

  4. Like rav shach asking a gay reform Buddhist rabbi to be Tosh yeshiva.

  5. berachos calls it insolent

  6. That was referring to a different defense not the claim of assistance

  7. None of the arguments were successful

  8. Tisha b av.
    This took place.

    Clue - a bad day.

    Need to interpret these aggadahs , not take them literally.

  9. This is kinda my first reaction.

    The Golden Calf was meant to be a "substitute Moshe." Meaning, the people who made the Golden Calf had perceived of Moshe as having "special powers" that he used to bring them out of Egypt. So it made sense to them to create another "being" with special powers in order to fulfill the people's desire to return to Egypt.

    Moshe, upon learning of this development, found himself in an awkward position. If Moshe immediately agreed with the assessment the people had sinned and began pleading for mercy, it could be interpreted that he was acting in his own interest because his "job security" was at stake.

    So to dispel any notion that he was acting from self interest, Moshe starts by exploring how maybe there is something that be salvaged from the unfolding spiritual fiasco.

    Once G-d establishes by his reply that the Golden Calf is nothing, Moshe is back on stronger ground. Since the Golden Calf is nothing, Moshe can pray for the people without it seeming he has anything to gain personally from the prayer.

    By way of analogy, imagine a CEO of a company goes on a business trip. While he's gone the employees go out and find someone to replace the CEO and the employees do all this independent of the board.

    The board of the company is furious and wants to fire all the employees.

    The CEO could just say, "This 'new CEO' is nothing," but then it mught seems he just wants to be able to sit at his his desk again.

    Instead, the real CEO first demonstrates that the interloper is nothing and therefore he, the VEO, never stopped being the CEO. Anything he does now, like telling the building security to escort the fake CEO out of the premises will not appear self-serving.

  10. Nice try - So Moshe uses heresy to save the Jews and make G-d admit they hadn't sinned?!

  11. If Moses actually held by the midrash, why did he smash the luchot? They are not literal transcripts of what he said. Rambam says that these are not to be taken literally _ albeit if the reader is of the first 2 categories, they should ignore his words.

  12. I heard an internet rabbi say that even the sin of Adam wasn't a sin, it was a choice if Adam and chava to enter the lower world.

    All sabbatean stuff.

  13. I'm not sure it was heresy. It seems to me that G-d, so to speak, delegates power to to His creations, while He, G-d, reserves to Himself the Ultimate Authority.

    The sun, moon, etc. all exert an influence on the Earth and human affairs. Now that the Jews had -- wrongly -- brought onto the Earth the Golden Calf, Moshe was floating the idea that it somehow also be folded into Creation.

    The quote from Tanchuma seems to say it wan't the Golden Calf, per se, that sparked G-d's Wrath as much as the people worshipping it.

    Now, indeed, Moshe's statement does at first seem heretical. I'm not going to say otherwise. I'm only suggesting it was no worse than Abraham's praying for Sodom having the possibility as being open to interpretation as Abraham wanting to preserve evil.

  14. Actually it is Rambam see Madreigos HaAdam for clarification

  15. I am sure you can find commentaries discussing why he broke them -
    There is even a text which says G-d told him to break them

  16. Is there one where G-d praises Israel for building such a wonderful assistant?

  17. According to Rambam, a sin did occur https://etzion.org.il/en/philosophy/great-thinkers/rambam/sin-tree-knowledge

    What rabbi Friedman argues is that the verse "on the day you eat from the Tree... " is determinative, and that they chose to come down to the lower world to raise it up. That was the holy sin concept of sabbetai zvi.

  18. G-d decides that the golden calf perpetrators will be killed. so it's clear the "assistant" ruse was not accepted, or even presented.

  19. only a small number were killed and they were eruv rav

  20. A Common Misconception ;

    they were blotted out of the Book. the 3000 were killed by sword, but the rest by other means

  21. 35 And the LORD smote the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made.

    The smiting was the entire generation, very few made it to E'Y.

    The 3000 figure does not even include those who died by drinking the bitter gold Waters.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.