It is so easy to lose faith. And so difficult to maintain it, to keep steady in the face of difficulty and overwhelming negativity, to believe in God and basic goodness even when the world seems to be moving in the wrong direction.
Faithlessness and a lack of steadfastness. That is what sparked the first act of idolatry in history, the Golden Calf of this week’s parsha. The people had waited their time and Moshe was late. Had they been able to wait just one more day, they would not have sinned. But they lost faith. They could not remain steady in the face of uncertainty and a seemingly negative turn of events. They may have had some faith but their faith did not have strength or discipline. It was not a strong enough muscle to rely on.
The contrast to this faithlessness is Avraham. God promised Avraham that his descendants would be like the stars of the sky. But then he remained childless for many, many years, and finally, after having the promised child with Sarah, he was commanded to sacrifice him, yet another obstacle to the fulfillment of the promise. Like the children of Israel at Sinai after 40 days of waiting, Avraham should have lost faith; he should have given in to despair and impatience and given up on the God project entirely. Enough! The facts pointed in the direction of negativity and chaos. But Avraham, if nothing else, was steadfast and unbreakable in his faith. No matter the wait, not matter the delay, he trusted in God’s plan.
Things often seem contrary to a divine plan in our lives. The fall to despair in the face of a negative turn of events, the inability to stand strong and steadfast in our faith, this is indeed the first step to idolatry as it is an abandonment of God, an abandonment of the very basic belief that God runs this world with overflowing hesed or love.