Kol Colchester Parshat Ki Tisa

The story of the Golden Calf is one of the most incredibly honest stories told by any religion. The Jewish people experience the seminal moment in its history – direct communication with God at Mount Sinai – and 40 days later, they are worshiping an idol.

It is yet another example in the Torah of something that human beings surely would not have written. If you are trying to sell a religion, you don’t want to reveal that even those who had the most powerful experience were not all that impressed. (When British businessman Gerald Ratner jokingly told everyone that his jewelry was no good, it nearly caused his company’s collapse.)

But if God is writing the book, He has nothing to prove. But much to teach. And the incident of the Golden Calf is brimming with wisdom.

It says to me that experiences, no matter how powerful and how inspirational, do not change us fundamentally. I know that personally I could fall into the trap of “seeing” God directly – and worshipping an idol a few weeks later. Memories fade; experiences are forgotten; highs settle down. Quick fixes just don’t last.

The mistake the Jewish people made was to rely on the high of Sinai, rather than buckling down to the hard work of sustained and steady growth. Once they had forgotten the high, they were nearly the same people as they were before it.

It’s the same old story that Judaism always preaches: The only way to true fulfilment is via an incremental path. There are no shortcuts to greatness, only the long and winding road of waking up early and facing days and months and years of challenge and struggle.

Think about your own life, your challenges and hurdles. There is always a short easy solution, and the long hard one. The Jewish people were looking for the easy option. Let’s not make the same mistake.