Parashat Ki Tissa

Go Down, Moses!

The incident of the Golden Calf teaches each of us the importance of taking responsibility for our actions and inspires us to make our communities homes of sacredness.

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A Word

The golden calf incident seems to be a case of bad leadership all around. Rashi shows us how God chastises Moses for his poor leadership of the people. If Moses had communicated better with the people before he left to climb the mountain, perhaps they would not have doubted him so much.

And yet, Aaron too, was at fault. He had allowed the people to riot by not providing them with any clear leadership instructions. Some interpreters say that Aaron was only trying to stall for time until Moses came back. And yet Aaron's advice created havoc and rioting among our people! Ramban even suggests that Moses later yells at Aaron saying: "What kind of hatred did you have for this people that you thought to cause their destruction and annihilation?" Clearly, Aaron was partly to blame for this disaster.

And finally, responsibility also lies in each member of the Israelite community. The commentator Sforno points out that if there had been even one or two Israelites righteous enough to speak out, Aaron would have had enough support to desist from making the golden calf.

Indeed, when a situation of chaos and defeat arises in a community, it is easy to blame others. But in truth, each of us is responsible for our actions. And when a community fails, it causes each of us to GO DOWN for a time. May each of us RISE UP to make our communities a place of responsibility and holiness.

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Rabbi Andrea Steinberger serves as a rabbi at the Hillel Foundation at the University of Wisconsin. Rabbi Steinberger received her ordination from the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1997 and her BA from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.