“Your powers are dead or dedicated. If they are dedicated, they are alive with God and tingle with surprising power. If they are saved up, taken care of for their own ends, they are dead.” -Eli Stanley Jones

In this Olympic season, it is inspiring to see the commitment, the dedication of athletes for their chosen goals. It is entertaining to see the seriousness with which they pursue their sports and the honor the winners receive.

However, when the Children of Israel rebel against God, by worshipping the Golden Calf, there is a much more serious game afoot. Moses basically calls for a civil war, adjuring his followers that “brother shall kill brother.” At the end, only the members of Moses’ own tribe, the Levites, join him. It would seem a battle fraught with danger. The members of one small tribe against wild, idolatrous masses from the rest of Israel.

The Torah recounts the casualty list at the end of the battle. Three thousand of the idol worshippers were slain. None of the Levites are reported as fallen. The Netziv on Exodus 32:26 wonders as to the extreme imbalance in the casualties of war. How did a much smaller force not lose a man while the larger rabble suffered what amounted to a massacre? (see the dramatization in my fictional account)

The Netziv explains that the answer can be found in the nature of Moses’ call for troops: “Whoever is for God, to me!” To the Netziv, it is more than a powerful rallying call. It is a selection criteria. Moses is recruiting those who are “for God” – but only “for God.” In this battle there was no room for those of mixed allegiance. There was no place for those who had doubts about God or were not wholly dedicated to Him. Only the purely devoted could fight, should fight and furthermore, because of their loyalty need not fear any hurt in the violent confrontation.

May we find and increase our dedication and thereby vanquish our fears.

Shabbat Shalom,



To the memory of Jacky Amzallag. I never met a man more dedicated to a synagogue than he was. His example was an inspiration. May his family be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.