There is civil disobedience and there is just plain disobedience. This week, as we read Ki Tissa, we face into some of the precipitating factors that led the Israelite people to melt down gold and build the Golden Calf – and hedonistically dance around said calf in the absence of Moses. Moses was gone forty days and was just about to return to the people from Sinai, when God – from a vantage point we can only imagine – told Moses what “his” people were up to in his absence.
We seem to do better when that spirit of judgment is in the room with us. When Aaron was teaching sexuality to university students he had them consider a scenario where things were getting hot and heavy as it were, a point where most students agreed there was no possibility of saying “No”. And then Aaron suggested, imagine your mother walking into the room. What happens next?
What do we make of this story in Torah? What does God see? What does Moses see? And what are the people not seeing? When Moses had not returned the Israelites began to worry desperately – they were bewildered, insecure and their future looked destabilized. They discounted the miracles they had just encountered – not just mundane miracles but the big MIRACLES of Exodus and Revelation. So they decided to try another god, a golden god to help them out.
In such circumstances, when we may feel despondent, we truly can lose our bearings – all of us. Talmud teaches us that even King Solomon, when he was in his decline, felt that he “reigned only over his walking cane.” The Book of Ecclesiastes, or Kohelet is attributed to King Solomon – perhaps a chastened king found wisdom in his rule over his cane, a wisdom he continues to offer us in his words. To every season…
May we all feel useful, throughout our days, and may we all learn from the errors of our ways. And may we all listen to the birds sing! From owls to ravens, robins to jays, mallards to meadow larks – it is a symphony of spring.