Last week, in Khi Thisa, we read of how our ancestors made a golden calf, danced around it and even made sacrifices. How could a generation not so far removed from Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, Leah and Rachel have been so stupid? The patriarchs and matriarchs had committed themselves to monotheism, reaffirming their trust in the Eternal One many times. How their souls must have grieved to see the degradation in which their descendants sank. The sin of the golden calf is, though, according to the sages easier to understand when one takes into account the recent history of the children of Israel in Egypt. Deprived of liberty, enslaved and debased, they had been surrounded by idolatry. Wherever they looked, they must have seen statues and carvings of gods and goddesses, many of them curious mixtures of beast and human. Besides, are we today really any better? How easy it is to s l i d e s l o w l y i n to idolatry. It may start with superstition or a belief in the power of talismans. Even sacred objects associated with deeply held faith may seem to take on a power in themselves, which then becomes divorced from what the objects symbolise. When we touch a mezuzah, do we think of the words inside, or do treat the mezuzah as an object of power in its own right? In our deep reverence for the Sefer Scroll may we not forget the significance of the text is contains?
Let us hope we can laugh off all superstition, see the talisman for what it is and pop the hollow idol. Just as I hope, with no touching of wood, no crossing of fingers, no searching for a black cat to cross my path and no avoidance of thirteen of anything, that things will improve for the Israelites this week. I do believe they will, for I am reminded by Adam Feldman, who, together with Melanie, will be leading the service, that this Saturday, 25th Adar, is also Shabbat Shekalim, being six weeks prior to Pesach.
To quote our service leaders “We thought it may be nice if people could bring, in place of half a shekel, an item or two of non-perishable food (tins or dry packets) that we can collect as our Shabbat Shekalim donations, and we’d be happy to pass this to one of the local food bank collection points.”
So come along this Saturday at 10:30 for a super double bill and perform an extra mitzvah at the same time by responding to Adam and Melanie Feldman’s call.