The story of the Golden calf that we read in this week’s Torah portion is one of the most shocking in the Torah. The Jewish people are on a high. They stood at Sinai and experienced the sound of God’s voice. They had seen miracles and revelations so clear, like the world would never know again. And 40 days later, in a moment of confusion they sink so low to create an idol and worship it. How could that be?
While there is no shortage of commentaries that help us understand the mindset of the Jewish people, the roles of the different groups of Jews, Ahron’s involvement, the meaning of the calf, and more, I would like to share with you one very simple and incredibly important lesson that the Torah is teaching us through this story.
The higher one climbs on the ladder of spiritual growth, the more vulnerable they are to fall. The faster one is moving forward, the more opposition there will be to slow them down. The more one is ready to take on, the more excuses there will be why not to do it.
The mystery of the Golden calf is a mystery that I witness daily. I call it the Golden Calf Syndrome. Someone gets inspired, enlightened, takes on new commitments; a class, prayer, a new Mitzvah, a new goal. They begin to feel a new freshness and excitement in their Judaism, and then… crash! Life got busy, things got crazy, I am exhausted, the “flu”, the stomach virus, the Caps, the Oscars, family in town, next week I will be back into it for sure, etc… And slowly but surely the excitement drifts, the freshness is stale, and the person is confused and feeling farther away and more disconnected than ever before. It is the Golden Calf Syndrome.
And who are the ones that ultimately overcome the Golden Calf Syndrome? In our Torah portion, the Jewish people who stayed true to what they understood at Sinai- even though 40 days later it didn’t seem so exciting any more- those were the ones who said no to the Golden Calf.
Those who stick on a course, who stay true to themselves and follow through on commitments that they made at moments of clarity, those are the ones who ultimately reach the Promised Land. Those who realize that a bad day doesn’t mean it is over, that just because you fell once, doesn’t mean you can’t get back on again. That is the mentality that it takes to stay inspired, to stay fresh and to not be like those Jews in our Torah portion who buckled under the pressure of the Golden Calf Syndrome.