Kenneth Cohen

Lessons from the Golden Calf

The sin of the Golden Calf was tragic on many levels. The Jewish people went from being on a level like angels, to falling in total disgrace.

Many commentators wrote that death would have been abolished, had this sin not occurred. The level at Mount Sinai was equivalent to that of Adam and Eve before their sin.

Many blame the Eirav Rav, the mixed multitude as being the instigators who incited the people. They convinced them that Moshe wasn’t coming back.

Aharon did his best to see if he could stall matters. He first thought that there would not be a willingness on the part of the people to give up their gold. He also tried to delay matters, as he said that there would be a holiday tomorrow.

Many do not realize that in addition to idol worship, three other grievous sins took place. They murdered Chur, the son of Miriam. They acted promiscuously as hinted by the word, לצחק, “they played,” which was a euphemism for sexual immorality. And they spoke Lashon Hara against Moshe and Aharon.

A further explanation as to the severity of the sin was the fact that despite the transition from slavery to freedom, the people should have known better. Moshe had proven himself as their faithful leader over and over again. They should have shown him loyalty, and they should not have turned against him so quickly.

There are many lessons to be learned from the sin of the Golden Calf. We are still suffering its consequences to this very day.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at