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Tammuz 17

May 21, 2009 | by

Today the Jews worshiped the Golden Calf and on this day, therefore, Moses broke the Tablets of the Law. Jews initiate a three-week period of mourning which ends on the Ninth of Av, the day on which spies sent by Moses to scout Canaan returned with a report so pessimistic that the Israelites wept all night. (Both days also become days of mourning for other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people, e.g. both Sanctuaries were destroyed on the Ninth of Av.)

The two events - the worship of the Golden Calf and the despair of the Israelites - are closely related. The Torah relates that the Israelites despaired of entering the Promised Land because they lacked faith that God would enable them to conquer it. Their worship of the Golden Calf and their despair of entering the Promised Land both came from a lack of faith in God.

Some people would be horrified to think of themselves as idolaters, yet their behavior may manifest a lack of faith and trust in God. For example, Torah law requires that a certain percentage of one's income be given as tzedakah. Reluctance to do so shows a lack of faith in the Divine promise that those who give tzedakah will be rewarded manyfold. Failure to refrain from conducting one's business on the Sabbath displays a lack of trust in God, Who decreed that the Sabbath be a day of rest and has promised that those who observe it will gain much more by obeying him than they could through human effort.

The mindset of those who worshiped the Golden Calf and thereby repudiated the true God led directly to the disastrous reaction to the libel of the spies, which caused the loss of an entire generation in the desert and delayed the acquisition of the Promised Land for forty years.

Thanking God requires more than lip service; it must be made manifest in our daily lives.

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