Tolstoy and the Golden Calf Part Three

Mar 8th, 2012 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“Before Yeravam ben Nevat, the people of Israel nursed from a single calf. Thereafter, they nursed from three; the one of the Golden Calf and the two of Yeravam (Sanhedrin 102a).”

How could the person about whom the Talmud says, “The Torah knowledge of Yeravam was flawless (Sanhedrin 102a),” and that “the entire Torah was an open field to him, and he discovered new insights that no ear had ever heard (ibid.),” introduce such a idol worship to the people?

“He seated a wicked man beside a righteous man and asked them, ‘ Will you sign to everything I do?’

‘ Yes,’ they replied.

‘ I would like to be king over you,’ he said.

‘ Very well,’ they replied.

‘ Will you fulfill all that I command you?’

‘ Yes,’ they replied.

‘ Even if it be to worship idols?’

‘ Heaven forbid,’ said the righteous people.

The wicked men said to the righteous men, ‘ Do you think a man like Yeravam would worship idols? He merely wishes to test you and see if you will obey him.’

Even Achiah haShiloni erred and signed (Sanhedrin 101b).” There is danger in allowing a single person to hold such unlimited power. This was Yeravam’s argument.

This was his argument with King Solomon.

This was his fear of Jerusalem: “If this people goes up to offer sacrifices (I Kings 12:27).” Yeravam said, “It is a tradition that no one may sit in the inner courtyard of the Temple except for the kings of the House of Judah. When they see Rechavam sitting while I stand, they will think, ‘ This one is the true king; that one, the slave.’ If I too sit, I will be in rebellion against the kingdom. Then they will slay me and follow Rechavam.”

The people insist on breaking away from the House of Judah and yet they acknowledge that only a descendant of that House may sit in the inner courtyard of the Temple. The people who are insisting on breaking away into a separate kingdom, will perceive anyone else who sits in that place as rebelling against the kingdom! Even the people who are rejecting the King will still honor him! They do not know what they really want. There is nothing more dangerous than having a single human being with unlimited power “Tolstoy and the Golden Calf-Part Two”) leading people who are unsure of what they want; “Tolstoy and the Golden Calf”. Such a person is always in danger of becoming a Golden Calf himself.

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