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Calves in Black Hats
An In-Depth Psychological - Kabbalistic Analysis
by Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 2015 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.
The sin of the Golden Calf is far more than just an episode in history. The Golden Calf serves as an archetype, a symbol for a symptom of a much deeper psychological problem. Unless we properly understand and address the underlying psychological imbalance that led to the making of the Golden Calf, we will continue to inadvertently make modern Golden Calves in a variety of new forms, that are each as bad as the first.
The Golden Calf was a specific violation of the second of the Ten Commandments. The Second Commandment says, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Literally, the term “before Me” means “upon My Face.” In other words, the Second Commandment prohibits calling anything God that is not, or elevating something to being considered divine that is not. This is the proverbial putting “another god” (a mask or veil) over the Face of God.
At Mt. Sinai, the Israelites were directly exposed to the reality of the transcendental nature of the reality of God's Being. YHWH spoke telepathically into the minds of the assembled people. YHWH also manipulated their genetic sequencing, to imprint within them an innate recognition of His universal Torah. YHWH altered the people both physiologically and psychologically. This was the beginning of a great Divine plan. How is it then that after experiencing God so intimately, such a short time ago, that the people could even consider making the graven image of a calf?
The issue of concern is not why the image of a calf was chosen over any other image. Rather the issue is how is it that the people could have demanded an image, any image whatsoever. Is not such a request tantamount to idolatry, and the worship of another god?
The Biblical text is clear on this issue. The people requesting the Golden Calf were not at all requesting another god to replace YHWH. The Golden Calf was not an image of an Egyptian god, or any of the other gods. No! The Golden Calf was meant to represent none other than YHWH Himself. The people had no intention to commit idolatry, to worship a god other than YHWH, and indeed, they did no such thing. What they did was to create an image for YHWH. Instead of YHWH being the invisible God, without form or image, the people felt more comfortable with an image of YHWH that they could see, and thus relate to. Therefore, they created the Calf, and cried before it, “This is your God, Israel,” meaning the Golden Calf is a visual representation of YHWH.
This intent was not idolatry. It was worse. When God spoke to the people weeks before at Sinai, He imprinted His Torah into their minds and genes. They were supposed to intuitively know, and understand what it meant not to place another god upon YHWH's face. The people's actions in designing the Calf clearly showed that the imprint did not take proper hold.
The collective mind of the people still could not grasp the vital, necessary message that the wholeness of the ultimate, universal God cannot be concentrated into a form or image. YHWH, the Active Being of existence, is so far beyond the concept of any visual image, that no image can do it justice. This is why images are prohibited. The rigid image constricts that which must flow natural and free. This failure of recognition jeopardized the purpose of the entire Sinai event.
As His response to the Golden Calf, YHWH wanted to wipe out the nation, and start from scratch, building upon Moses alone, and his bloodline. Apparently, the imprint took within Moses, so his mind and genes were where YHWH wanted them to be. Rather than accept this course of action, Moses pleaded with God to implement a Plan “B.” And this is exactly what happened.
Moses asked YHWH to show mercy, which is what happened. Although YHWH did not destroy the nation because of this mistake, it became apparent that the revelation of YHWH being the ultimate, universal God, who could not be given any kind of “face,” was a lesson far too deep and profound for the people at that time to internalize. Plan “B” was, therefore, put into effect.
Moses went back up the mountain, stayed there for another forty days (and nights), and coming down on Yom Kippur, brought with him a second set of Commandment Tablets. However, the second set was not absolutely identical to the first. The first Tablets were made entirely by YHWH alone, the second tablets were carved by Moses. Is this significant? What difference does it make who carved the Tablets? Isn't the only thing that matters is what is written on them? Wasn't that the same? The answer to this requires a deeper understanding of the nature of Torah, and insight into YHWH's Plan B.
The Israelites of that time could not handle the profundity of the first Sinatic revelation, this was clear. To repeat the same thing would have been redundant, and unproductive. If the same intense level of revelation was repeated, another mistake would have inevitably occurred. Plan B involved a coordinated, combined effort of both Moses and YHWH. Moses “carved” the tablets, and YHWH wrote on them. This has been classically interpreted to mean that the deep, profound truths of YHWH's Plan A would be concealed in the Torah underneath a superficial facade of subjective, cultural, and ritual laws.
Plan B cloaked the Torah in the language of the people of the time, and enabled them to grasp its message within the context of their present, limited cultural perspective. Originally, the First Tablets spoke of essence, not structure. But the people could not handle essence without structure. Therefore, Plan B, the second Tablets focused on structure, creating the fabric of the 613 commandments in the forms that we have known them since Sinai. This was a necessary step because the people could not conceive of an invisible God, they certainly could not conceive of a Torah without rigid rules and regulations.
The rules and regulations served as a means to an end, to teach and instruct the people how to live their lives striving for higher moral values, and greater refinement of personality and character. This was a gift that YHWH could give the people. The people had to learn these things, and earn their benefits all on their own. This was Plan B, and it would take the nation of Israel on a journey through human history, which has not ended, even too this day.
The Kabbalah offers a very interesting understanding of these events. The Kabbalists teach that YHWH's Plan A was for Moses to serve as the Messiah, and that Israel would then, at that time, spread the universal message of the commandments to the whole world ushering in the messianic era at that time.
The Kabbalists state that the original Tablets contained only the Inner Torah, and none of its present surface level. The original, pure, ultimate Torah was universal, what we today call the Torah of Mashiah. However, this Torah was so sublime that apparently even the Israelites of the day could not fathom its profundity. This is what led them to crave a physical symbol for YHWH in the form of the Golden Calf.
Plan B addressed the Israelites where they were at, psychologically and spiritually at that time. The facade (pshat) of the Torah came about as part of Plan B. It required of the Israelites to learn about the true nature of Heaven by observing rituals and commandments that would, slowly but surely, sink into their minds and consciousnesses. All the laws of dichotomy, the permitted and forbidden, sacred and profane, pure and impure came about because the then present Israelite mindset could not fathom the ultimate Singularity, and unity of all. That message had to be hidden away, and reserved only for those who could handle it (ref. Isaiah 45:7). This is how the Secrets (sod) of the Torah was born. This was the beginning of the original, and only authentic Biblical Kabbalah.
The secrets of the Torah originally were not meant to be kept secret. Unfortunately, limited and confused human consciousness changed all that. We have been working towards psychological growth and maturity ever since. This is what the commandments, and the religion of Judaism is all about. This is what the Kabbalists call Tikun HaNefesh, the repair of the soul (ref. Sefer Etz Hayim by R. Hayim Vital, Gate 50).
Movement towards the revelation of this great universal truth has been constant. It was the message of the Biblical prophets, and was continued by many of the later Sages of the Mishna and Talmud. Movement towards the restoration of the original revelation of the first set of Tablets is thus Plan B. Plan B is simply the fulfillment of YHWH's Plan A. This is the working towards bringing Mashiah. Anything that perverts the movement towards integration (Tikun) and unity (Yihud) in the great Singularity causes what is called “Perud” (separation), and is considered by the Kabbalists to be an expression of evil.
To think that YHWH would have a Plan A, and a Plan B reveals to us how much potential we human beings have, and it reveals to us the faith that Heaven has in us! After Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, God went into His Plan B for humanity. And now, after the Golden Calf, God went into His Plan B for Israel. There seems to be a pattern here.
God knows what potential we human beings are capable of living up to, and at the same time, He recognizes our weaknesses. God is ready with a plan either way. We human beings can chose either the high road, or the low road. And if we, all too often, chose the low road, then we should not be surprised that the path leads us to struggle up the mountain in a steady incline. After all, the low road, does lead upwards. Our final destination as the human race has already been determined for us. It is ingrained within our genetic makeup. We, therefore, cannot escape it, anymore than we can escape ourselves, which we can't.
Today, most of humanity continues to worship one form of a Golden Calf or another. Many have turned their religions into Golden Calves. Many have even turned Judaism and Torah into Golden Calves. Judaism and Torah get turned into Golden Calves every time the true meaning and intent of the religion gets lost and bogged down under ever more crushing layers of interpretation, and ritual practice, each of which have nothing to do with the original sources of classical Torah.
Essentially, those who cake layer upon layer of new, “stricter” interpretations of Torah, are in fact creating and worshiping a false face of YHWH. By creating a false face for religion, they equally create a false face for God, who is supposed to be found within religion. In their quest for religious piety, they have, maybe unknowingly (and maybe not), built for themselves a modern Golden Calf. As it was in the days of Moses, so it is today, and Heaven is not pleased with this misguided endeavor. Maybe it is time for another Heavenly Plan B. Only time can tell.
Today, not many bother to look for, or to listen for the Still Soft Voice that still echoes within us from its inception at Sinai. Instead many seek to find an external voice instead of the inside voice. This is how Golden Calves are made and worshiped. Yes, we have all too many Golden Calves today, and they are far worse than the literal one made in the days of Moses.
We have the Biblical story recorded for us to teach us a psychological lesson. We are meant to learn from the Biblical lesson, extrapolate its message, and apply its teachings to ourselves in every generation. When we fail to do this, we instead build modern Golden Calves.
The people in Moses' day were incapable of understanding their mistake. They proclaimed, and most likely certainly believed, that they were serving YHWH the God of Israel, but alas, they were not. As it was then, so too is it today, regardless of how religious one appears, and proclaims to be.
A Golden Calf is a Golden Calf, even when it is no longer made of gold, or in the image of a calf. Even when it is dressed in a black hat, and long coat, it is still a forbidden image which must be removed before one can again seek to see, and finally discover the true invisible Presence of the Living Being of YHWH.
The Written Works of Ariel Bar Tzadok
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