- Melting the Golden Calf
- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Reader: If Moses melted the calf, then how did he
grind it into fine powder? I wouldn't know where to begin with
- Mesora: The physics is
not a problem, after Moses melted the calf, it cooled and hardened,
now ready to be ground. The question is why Moses did both, melting
and grinding. Perhaps this teaches that had Moses simply ground
the calf, people would feel they were drinking something of the
calf per se, an idolatrous rite. Moses did not want to mislead
the people further, so he first removed the form of the calf
from the gold through melting it. Now, in the gold's unformed
state, Moses ground the gold and made the Jews drink of the gold
dust, mixed in water which emanated from the Mountain.
Moses would not institute any practice relating to the worshiped
form of "calf". Melting was prior to the grinding to
rid the gold of the form of the calf.
Additionally, Moses' act gives us an insight into Jewish Law
- "Halacha." One might argue that the gold - be it
melted or in the original form of the calf - is still the "substance"
that was worshiped and should therefore retain the status of
an idol. While the substance is the same, however, the object
is not. Halacha is not governed by rules of physics - just the
opposite is true. Halacha tells us what the object is. When one
steals, if a change occurs in the object, the law to return the
stolen object can no longer be fulfilled, as the 'stolen object'
no longer exists. Halacha views a substantial change in form
as a totally new object. Payment must be made in place of the
- Here too, Moses melted the Calf so the Jews would not relate
to it, but to mere gold. Halacha defines our reality. This teaches
us that our lives are to be governed by intelligence and wisdom,
not by an overestimation of the physical.