The sin of the calf is the turning point in the book of Shmot. Everything is going great (more or less), the Jews were taken out of Egypt, they just got the commandments, Moses goes up the mountain…well, and then he comes down and sees the people doing what basically the first through third commandment says not to do. There are the people just dancing around a golden calf.
Many commentators (and regular people) are confused as to how they could do such a thing. They were actually at Sinai, they actually saw the see split, but they go to build an idol- can they really not believe in God?! Some commentators say that they came to build the calf because they miscounted, they thought Moshe should have come back already, and when he didn’t show up they were scared, and thought to worship this way again.
Thinking (as I have been for the better part of the year) how this can relate to life (or to my life at the moment), I think about the desire to know or better yet, the ill ease of the unknown.
I know that I like to know what is going to happen. I like plans. I think a lot (probably too much), and try and figure out all the possible outcomes- but there are times that I can’t do that, and it scares me. I think about my upcoming move (I finally bought tickets on Thursday and said to work when I was leaving- slowly this is getting real) and I just don’t know what will happen next. If I knew that I would be coming back after the year, I think I would be less nervous about the move. But I have no idea what will happen next.
I think that even in relationships, I like to know what is happening- I want it to make sense, even though it doesn’t always. My grandmother the other day was telling me about how my great-grandparents (my grandfather’s parents) didn’t speak the same language at all (one was Hungarian and the other was Russian)- but still got married. I am just shocked as to how that could happen- here I am thinking that verbal communication is something important, so I say that guys need to be able to at least understand English, and I speak fluent Hebrew! And the guys who I can’t tell if they are flirting or TLV that just doesn’t make sense to me that he would want to date me….
I also tend to think the worst of things, especially when it comes to school. This past week I had an evaluation- and I was sure that they were going to tell me that I wasn’t good enough, and that I had to move to the US earlier than I want. I am sure that is just residual fear from the old program, where all evaluations were bad, but also probably a bit of an exaggeration. I am not used ot people telling me good things. If I am doing well, people just ignore me- if I do badly, then they will talk.
So then what can we learn from this parsha? I don’t think that it is saying that if we don’t trust we are going to get killed by serpents… But maybe it is teaching us that at times we just too just wait and see- we need patience. That we need to not always jump to the worse conclusions- that maybe something good can still happen. That sometimes there is something good and exciting (be it also terrifying) from the unknown- and it is just up to us to sit and wait to make the unknown, known.