One of my children did something they were not supposed to do. When my husband and I confronted our child, our child spent the next five minutes or so rattling off a myriad of excuses and rationales for why this behavior happened. We then spent the next 10 minutes or so trying to help our child understand what was wrong with the action.
After a frustrating amount of time, which felt like an eternity, we finally said that by owning up to the mistake, we would have more respect for our child and we would be able to move forward past this incident with the goal of learning from the mistake and not letting it happen again. The arguing and excuses were almost as bad as the misbehavior.
When preparing to write my thoughts about this week’s parsha, Ki Tisa, I came across a commentary from Hillel E. Silverman based on the Torah text that says:
“When Moses asks Aaron why he allowed the people to create an idol, he protests that he never intended to fashion a golden calf. It was all a tragic accident. He simply threw the gold into the fire to be melted down, and ‘there came out this calf.’ He could not foresee the consequences of his acquiescence to the demands of a rebellious people.”
After reading this commentary, I immediately thought about the situation I described above with one of my children. The golden calf incident has been talked about for centuries. There are countless commentators that try to explain why this incident happened. Some blame Aaron, some blame the Israelites, some blame Moses.
However, most commentators agree that whoever may be to blame, the one thing in common that set this event in motion was fear. Remember, Moses was gone for 40 days and nights. The Israelites were probably thinking that Moses either abandoned them or Moses died on the journey on Mt. Sinai. There is even a midrash I once read that said Aaron made it out of fear when the Israelites threatened to kill him unless he made them this “god.”
No matter what the reasoning, Aaron’s initial response seems to be one of trying to duck what actually happened. Whether it was his fault or not, own up to what happened. Instead, he reminded me of a fearful child trying to squirm out of trouble. That is dishonest.
The lesson I want my children to learn from this parsha is that we are all human. We make mistakes and even if there is no excuse for something that happened, there is always a reason.
Own up to the reason, be honest, learn from the mistakes and make better choices in the future.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)