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Jumping on the Bandwagon

Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35 )

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Parshat Ki Tisa tells of the building of the Golden Calf. The obvious question is: How could the Jews have done such a thing? They had just witnessed God orchestrating the Ten Plagues, and seen the Red Sea miraculously split. Who in the Israelite camp would so quickly turn to idolatry?

Here's what happened: For hundreds of years, the Jews were lowly slaves in Egypt, abused and ridiculed. Then with the Ten Plagues, things turned around and 3 million Jews walked out of Egypt in broad daylight!

When the Jews left, a small group of Egyptians jumped on the bandwagon and attached themselves to the Jewish camp. This group is known as the "mixed multitude," the Eirev Rav. Since they were not integrated into the Jewish people, the Golden Calf was their opportunity to start a revolution ― however self-destructive it may be.

The kabbalists explain that this energy of the mixed multitude parallels the inclination inside each of us to move away from God. We're frustrated because things aren't going exactly the way we'd like. So we get angry and rebel. And that's the worst mistake. Because in fact the highest level of our human expression is to use free-will to discover God ― amidst our trials and tribulations.

So what's the key to fighting this self-destructive tendency? To recognize that it is a foreign entity, just like the mixed multitude. Because at the core, our purest desire is to serve God ... in every way.

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