This Dvar Torah was prepared in the merit and memory of my grandfather: Rav Yitzchak Zev Ben Yisroel Mordechai HaKohen Solomon
Why the golden calf?
What happened by the sin of the golden calf?
What brought the Bnei Yisroel to do such a sin?
The Bnei Yisroel were on such a high level after
receiving the Torah at Har Sinai, and here they fall to such a
We come to the conclusion that by making this golden
calf, it wasn't that the Bnei Yisroel were denying Hashem, rather
they felt they needed a replacement for Moshe, for they got mixed
up and the Sattan made them think that Moshe died.
Once Moshe came back, right away the Bnei Yisroel
felt and understood that they made a grave mistake.
By making this idol, it wasn't that they were denying
Hashem, rather it was that they felt that they needed an intermediate
between them and Hashem, that they needed a physical being to
interact between them and Hashem.
There is no vacation from Torah:
Rav Mordechai Gifter writes in his Sefer "Pirkei
Torah", that when it says in the Pasuk (32:25), "And
Moshe saw that the nation was uncovered..." Rashi on the
Pasuk explains that the nation's stain and degradation was uncovered.
By using the term uncovered it means that something that was
previously covered and hidden, was only now uncovered.
Rav Mordechai Gifter explains that by nature man
has in him desires lusts. However, through Avodas Hashem, a person
can work on himself and free himself from such natural desires.
If one stops in his Avodas Hashem, he might easily return to
his previous state. One has to practice so that even when he
goes on vacation, such as during Bayn Hazmananim (Pesach or Succos
vacation), one must still remain a "Ben Torah".
Rav Henach Leibowitz brings down that Davkah after the golden calf was destroyed and Bnei Yisroel felt guilty over what they had done, were they described as "uncovered". For even though now, they returned to Moshe as their leader, they left the torah for a short while. Now, after their return, they couldn't attain the previous level that they had. One can't say that I learned enough Torah, I need a break from Torah. For once one stops his 1earning and practicing the Torah, he is no more on the same level.
What actually happened here was the revealing of
stains whose potential was always there, yet only surfaced when
the Bnei Yisroel strayed from the correct path.
Rav Michel Barenbaum explains that the making of
the golden calf was beneath the Bnei Yisroel. Nevertheless, it
was decreed in Heaven that they stumble in this sin in order to
provide future Baalei Teshuvah with a claim of vindication. Their
test was to stand up against the impulses of their inclination.
We can't judge them for they were certainly on a higher level
than we are, but we can learn from them that the door is always
open for true repentance.
Internal character change:
Rav Chaim Shmulevitz (Sichos Mussar) explains that the generation of the desert was on such a high level, that even a maidservant was capable of reaching a lofty understanding of the Divine revelation, similar to that of a prophetess. It is not revelations or great events that make a prophet into a prophet.
For a person can feel the Divine presence, and reach a high level, yet if the person doesn't change his character, he will remain the same maidservant. The genuine prophets had only reached their level of prophecy after a long and hard process of character development and self-perfection.
Prophecy was only the climax of their arduous efforts and therefore it became an integral part of their personality.
That is why Davkah the Eirev Rav (Egyptian Proselytes) were the ones who took a part in making the golden calf, and dragged others from the Bnei Yisroel with them(Rashi on the Pasuk). They were affected by the Yetzias Metzraim, but it remained external, and didn't make an inner change in them.
A person can only attain a change in his character, if he works and develops it, and only then can he retain his achievements.
At times though, we may be inspired by miracles that
we see happening in our lives, it is not enough to feel a momental
inner feeling, rather we should use these moments as a method
to better our character.
Pasuk (32:15): "Moshe turned and descended from
the mountain ...
Rav Yakov Kaminetsky writes that when Moshe went down the mountain, he turned and than descended from the mountain. For when one leaves his Rav, he is to leave facing his Rav.(Shulchan Aruch Yore Dea, 242:16)
However one who's Rav sends him on an errand can
leave his Rav in such a case, as he leaves anyone else. For only
when one leaves his master, and not when he is sent out by his
master, does he face his master when he leaves.
There is also a Gemarah brought down in Yoma, in last week's Daf Yomi discusses this Halacha. (Yoma 53:a-b) There are similar Halachos such as when one finishes Shmonei Esrei, he is to take three steps back and wait in his place for a few moments.
There is also a similar Minhag to step backwards
facing the Ahron Kodesh upon leaving the Ahron Kodesh, and the
same applies upon leaving a Shul.