Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Magical Lesson Of The Golden Calf

כ"ה באדר תש"ע
Keowulf 27

DovBear (who putatively doesn't believe in magic) blogs about the golden calf, telling us that there are two traditional explantions of the verse:

וַיִּקַּח מִיָּדָם וַיָּצַר אֹתוֹ בַּחֶרֶט וַיַּעֲשֵׂהוּ עֵגֶל מַסֵּכָה וַיֹּאמְרוּ אֵלֶּה אֱלֹהֶיךָ יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר הֶעֱלוּךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם

He took [the gold] from their hand[s], tied it up in a cloth, and [someone else, i.e., sorcerers] made it into a molten calf. They said: "These are your gods, O Israel, who have brought you up from the land of Egypt!"

One is logical, one is "fanciful."

One tells us Aaron took a tool, and carved a calf; the other says he wrapped the donations of gold in a cloth and somehow a statue was produced. One relies on the text itself, the other depends on the introduction of unmentioned characters (the sorcerers) and a belief in their magic.

One makes sense, the other doesn't.

Menashe comments:

I think reason the sorcery interpretation is favored is because of verse 24, where Aaron responds to an irate Moses, 'I threw [the gold] into the fire and out came this calf.' The idea that Aaron would tell a lie (and such a comically lame one to boot), was untenable to many commentators.

SM further comments:

Although the lame explanation powerfully conveys Moses' anger and Aaron's sense of shame and need to offer up some excuse.

What actually makes sense is this - Aaron's response to Moses demonstrates an astute observation on the unjustified nature of Moses's anger since earlier Moses had claimed to have thrown some gold into a fire and out came a menorah. Consequently, we can see then that the 'magical method' of Moses and Aaron is seemingly the same. One difference, I think, is that Aaron demonstrates more enlightenment than Moses in the area of magic - which explains the reason why Moses would need a menorah, namely, to en-lighten up!

Aaron exemplifies an intelligent benevolent magician, who understands to some degree how magic works. Moses, in this case with the golden calf, shows himself to be a deluding manipulative one, who (in the case of the menorah) had used superstition (which is not magic) to fool people and who became angry that a better magician called him on it.

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