In Parshat Mishpatim (Shmot 23: 20-24) we read:
Behold, I will send an angel before you, to guard you on the way, and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be careful in his presence and obey his voice. Do not rebel against him; for he cannot pardon your transgression, as My Name is in him. But if you truly listen to obey his voice, and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and attack those who attack you. My messenger will go before you, and will bring you into the land of the Emori, Chiti, Prizi, Cnaani, Chivi and Yevusi, and I will annihilate them. You must not prostrate yourself to their gods, nor serve sacrifice to them…”
It seems that B’nai Yisrael assumed that Moshe was the angel who was supposed to be taking them to the Land of Israel and when they didn’t see him return from Mount Sinai they got worried as we see in Parshat Ki Tisa, Shmot 32: 1,4:
When the people saw that Moshe was late in coming down the mountain, they gathered against Aharon and said to him, “Arise, make us gods that will lead us, for this Moshe, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what happened to him…He (Aharon) took them (the gold rings) from their hands and formed it with a goldsmith’s engraving tool, and made it into a molten calf. They then said, “These, Yisrael, are your gods who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
Since Moshe didn’t return, B’nai Yisrael tried replacing him with a golden calf. However, the angel that God was speaking about was not Moshe. When God was angry at B’nai Yisrael for sinning, He said to Moshe (Shmot 33:1-2):
“Leave, go up from this place- you and the people you brought up from the land of Egypt- to the land of which I swore to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, saying, ‘To your descendents I will give it.’ I will send an angel before you…”
Moshe did not want the help of an angel, he wanted God to escort him. He pleaded with God and He agreed to escort him (33:17).
If the angel was not Moshe and God ended up escorting him and B’nai Yisrael then when did the angel appear?
According to Ramban, God waited until after the death of Moshe and then He sent them an angel. As we see in Yehoshua 5:13-15:
And it came to pass when Yehoshua was in Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood opposite him with a sword drawn in his hand. Yehoshua went over to him and said, “Are you with us or with our enemies?” He said, “No, for I am the commander of God’s legion; now I have come.” Yehoshua fell before him and prostrated himself, and said to him, “What does my master say to his servant?” The commander of God’s legion said to Yehoshua, “Remove your shoe from upon your foot, for the place upon which you stand is holy.” And Yehoshua did so.
How were B’nai Yisrael so off track that they thought that the golden calf was their leader?
When people are desperate for a new leader, they will convince themselves of anything. In the last few elections in Israel, each time a new leader or party came on the scene people rushed to vote for them and each time the leader or their party proved to be a disappointment in many respects.
Instead of seeking out a golden calf who will serve no purpose, we need to reach out to God and pray for guidance to pick the right leaders and hope that He will send an angel to guide us.
Jews abroad who want to have a say in who does and does not get elected need to take this opportunity to make aliya, immigrate to Israel and become part of the democratic process of determining the fate of the State of Israel.
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