The golden calf and Israel’s military brass

How could the Israelites worship a golden calf, and how can Israel’s generals continue to cling to their old ideas?

By Michael Selutin | | Topics: IDF
The golden calf of peace without war. Photo Flash90
The golden calf of peace without war. Photo Flash90

In our weekly Torah section, “Ki Tisa,” we read about one of the greatest sins of the Israelites: worshiping the golden calf. It is difficult to understand how this could have happened after they had just been freed from Egyptian slavery amid miracles. The God who brought ten plagues on the Egyptians and split the Sea of Reeds repeatedly said that there was no other god and that idols must not be worshiped. So how could the calf incident happen?

The answer is the same one you get when you follow current Israeli politics and ask yourself why so many politicians have not changed their stance on the Palestinians since October 7th. For many Israelis, that day was a turning point in our history, but for many others nothing has changed. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant wants to “not inflame passions,” and to allow Palestinian Muslims free access to the Temple Mount during Ramadan. Gadi Eisenkot declares that there can be no military victory against Hamas, and quite a few decision-makers are calling for the return of Palestinians to their jobs within Israel in order to fight terrorism with prosperity.

However, all these concessions to the hostile Palestinian population do not have the desired effect and could even be seen as weakness. Our leaders end up achieving the opposite of what they intended. After all the decades of these failed policies, and especially in the wake of October 7th, it should be obvious that a new approach is needed. But the Israeli politicians responsible for October 7 remain in their posts and do not appear to have changed their tune.

It may have been similar for the ancient Israelites who lived among idol worshipers in Egypt for over 200 years, and who had difficulty shedding their old ways of thinking. As Moses waited upon the Lord, the Israelites reverted to what they knew:

“When the people saw that Moses did not come down from the mountain for a long time, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Arise, make us gods to go before us. For we do not know what has happened to this man Moses, who brought us up out of the land of Egypt.’”

We're doing what we've always done. Image: Nicolas Poussin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
We’re doing what we’ve always done. Image: Nicolas Poussin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It is very difficult for people to change, especially as they get older, as is the case with Israeli politicians. For so many years they believed that it was possible to coexist with the Palestinians in peace, just as the Israelites worshiped statues and natural phenomena for many years.

October 7 and the Exodus from Egypt were intended to trigger a profound change in Israeli society, but it is not that simple. In the case of the Israelites, they had to wander in the desert for 40 years until the new generation shed their parents’ slave mentality. In the case of modern Israel, hopefully things will move faster, and the nation’s leadership will more rapidly draw the proper conclusions and exercise its authority over the Promised Land.

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One response to “The golden calf and Israel’s military brass”

  1. Jake Wilson says:

    Maybe off topic, yet provoked by the fact that Israel Today staff is comprised of Messianic Jews:

    Messianic Jews worship the Golden Calf of mainstream Christianity due to the same reason the Israelites worshipped it: they think, “THIS IS OUR GOD!”

    The idolatrous construct that emerged after 68 CE, parallel to increasing pagan influence, was foreshadowed 3,500 years ago at Mt. Sinai. When Moses failed to return 40 days after his ascension, the Gentiles proposed to raise a Golden Calf; they told Israel, “This is your god who saved you.”

    The early Christians expected Jesus to return after a few years, and when after 40 years He still hadn’t come, the Gentiles began to erect their triad. All who worshipped the Golden Calf died, and all Gentiles who worship the Holy Trinity will die for all eternity in gei hinnom (note: all Jewish people will enter the olam haba for they will be cleansed from their idols, see Ezekiel 36:25).

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