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February 28, 2015 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Ki Tisa

This coming week’s portion involves the notorious Golden Calf Affair, which raises numerous questions:

1.  Why would the Jews be dumb enough to fall for the whole thing?
2.  Afterwards the Levites kill a few thousand people (Exodus 32:28)- but if the sin is as universal as the portion implies why that few?

Exodus 32:4, as translated by the Soncino chumash, contains a possible hint: “they said ‘This is thy god, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”  Who is the “they” in question?  One might think it is the people as a whole.

But Rashi notes that the words were addressed to Israel as a whole, which implies that not everyone is making this statement.   Also, if the entire people had proclaimed the calf as a deity, they would have said “This is our god…”  Thus, it appears that only a minority of the people were making this proclamation.

Rashi infers that this minority is “not the native-born israelites … but the mixed  multitude who came out of Egypt with them” (quoting the Chumash).  In other words, the mixed multitude said “this is your God” to Israel, which certainly sounds right grammatically.  And it would make sense that non-Hebrews would be less invested in the whole monotheism concept than Hebrews.

Also, Rashi’s explanation solves the difficulty of why 3000 people get killed later on- only a minority were openly polytheistic, so only a minority got whacked.

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3 Comments

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  1. Shira Salamone / Mar 9 2015 11:54 am

    Why that few?! Why that many? Why does Moshe/Moses not give the sinners a chance to repent, and why is his tribe, Levi, rewarded with the k’hunah/priesthood and the role of “priest’s assistants” for having perpetrated a massacre?

  2. conservadox / Mar 9 2015 1:12 pm

    Excellent questions. If you follow Rashi, the 3000 were somehow worse than everyone else- they were the ones openly worshipping the calf as a deity, while perhaps the others were either silent or saw it as something less than a deity.

    Why no repentance? It seems to me that over the books of the Torah and Tanach, the concept of repentance grows more and more important, for whatever reason.

    By the way, good to see you blogging again; I assume that you feel a little better than you did a month or two ago.

    • Shira Salamone / Mar 12 2015 4:29 pm

      That and my boss is out of town on business, so I’m not so worried about being caught in the act. 🙂 Next week, back to normal.

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