Calf-Baked: Ki Tisa 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever used a far-fetched reason to defend your dubious behavior? Did the people around you believe you, or did they see right through you?

Aaron’s role in the building of the Golden Calf is difficult to explain — certainly to Moses — but that doesn’t prevent others from trying:

The Pitch: “Moses saw that the people were out of control — since Aaron had let them get out of control — so that they were a menace to any who might oppose them.” – Exodus 32:25

Swing #1: “Aaron knows he is in trouble. The very salutation he uses to Moses [during this episode] — ‘my lord’ — is akin to the one used by Jacob to mollify Esau, whose birthright he had taken.” – Aaron Wildavsky, Moses as Political Leader

Swing #2: “Aaron’s whole purpose [in leading the construction of the Golden Calf] had been to further God’s interests, to prevent a desecration of God’s name. Aaron was aware that the people had forfeited their lives already from the moment they had planned to make an alternate deity for themselves.” – Shenei Luchot HaBerit

Swing #3: “Anyone who answers [the Kaddish with]: ‘Amen, may God’s great name be blessed’ … they rip [up] his sentence. … even one who has within him a trace of idolatry [as in the case of the Golden Calf].” – BT Shabbat 119b

Late-Inning Questions: Why do some commentators seem eager to excuse Aaron in the matter of the Golden Calf? Even if he thought he was blameless, should Aaron have taken the blame for the incident in order to save the people from worse punishment? What stops us from taking ownership of our shortcomings?

On-Deck at TBT: We’re thrilled to be joined tomorrow by Apple Domingo, who will speak on behalf of Jewish Family Services of Western New York about Refugee Shabbat, a day when we pause to recognize the plight of millions of refugees around the world. Services will begin Saturday at 9:30am.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of never taking ownership, it will be interesting to see how fans (to the extent they’ll be allowed in ballparks) will react to the Houston Astros when they take the field in 2021. This will be the first opportunity for the public to approach many of the players implicated in the sign-stealing imbroglio that has tainted the team’s recent success.

Shabbat Shalom!