When We’ll Celebrate the Golden Calf Holiday


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    When We’ll Celebrate the Golden Calf Holiday

    From the desk of Rabbi Nissim Lagziel, mashpia in Oholei Torah: The American holiday of Thanksgiving revolves around a turkey. Chassidim say that when the Rebbe Rayatz came to
    the United States and heard about this strange custom, he laughingly said, “I heard of people who make turkey for a holiday meal but people who turn a turkey into a holiday I never heard before” • Click to Read


    The American holiday of Thanksgiving revolves around a turkey. Chassidim say that when the Rebbe Rayatz came to the United States and heard about this strange custom, he laughingly said, “I heard of people who make turkey for a holiday meal but people who turn a turkey into a holiday I never heard before.”


    Parshas Ki Sisa has one of the saddest stories in the history of the Jewish people. Just forty days after the exalted Giving of the Torah, they fell so low. Due to the supposed delay of Moshe Rabbeinu, the Jewish people went to Aharon and demanded, “Make us gods.” Aharon acquiesced and made the golden calf, something that would be remembered forever in infamy.

    The most amazing thing in this sorrowful episode is the fact that Aharon announced, “A holiday for G-d tomorrow.” Although Rashi tries to soften the shock and explains that Aharon’s intention was to push them off until the next day (and by tomorrow, who knows? G-d is great!), still, what was he thinking? Did Aharon truly think that the next day would be a holiday? For what?

    Here too, Rashi tries to explain, according to the simple meaning, “He was sure that Moshe would come and they would serve G-d,” but after all the explanations, why a holiday? Even if Moshe was to come earlier and they would serve G-d, why make a holiday out of it?

    We find a novel and very interesting explanation in the teachings of the revered kabbalist, the Arizal. He addresses the fact that all the commentators deal with the scandal in building an altar for idol worship and making idols by explaining that Aharon’s intention was for the sake of heaven, but the main issue remains unanswered – what’s with the holiday? What do they have to say about this holiday? How did the Torah record such a falsehood, and how did Aharon utter these words? he asks.

    The Arizal explains, based on sod and drush, that according to our calculation, the calf was made on 16 Tammuz, forty days after Moshe ascended Har Sinai. The next day, the Luchos were broken and this is one of five reasons for the fast of the 17th of Tammuz. But in the future, G-d will transform the fast of the 17th of Tammuz (like all the fasts) into a holiday and Yom Tov and then Aharon’s words will be fulfilled. “Because there is a ‘tomorrow’ that means after a while,” and when Aharon said “a holiday for G-d tomorrow,” he meant on the 17th of Tammuz many years hence, when all fast days are canceled.

    The holy Shelah, quoting this Arizal, adds his own insight, mentioning that even Tisha B’Av is called a “moed” in Megillas Eicha (1:15), an odd way to refer to the saddest day in the Jewish calendar. But herein lies a deep secret which is, Tisha B’Av will eventually be a moed, a happy day like Pesach and more so.

    The question is, even if in the future the fast days will be abrogated, why make it into a holiday? Of course, people prefer to eat than to fast, but we haven’t seen or heard of people who make a holiday out of breakfast and a moed out of a business lunch. After all, it’s just food, so what’s the great joy? What exactly are we celebrating?

    A search into the sources reveals to us that the cancellation of fast days in the future appears in a number of verses in Tanach. For example, in Yirmiyahu 31:12 it says, “ Then shall the maiden rejoice in the circular dance with music and the young men and the old men together, and I will turn their mourning into joy and will comfort them and make them rejoice from their sorrow.” There is a similar verse in Zecharia 8:19, “So said the Lord of Hosts: The fast of the fourth [month], the fast of the fifth [month], the fast of the seventh [month], and the fast of the tenth [month]

    shall be for the house of Yehudah for joy and happiness and for happy holidays – but love truth and peace.”


    A search into the works of drush and Chassidus reveals to us that it is possible to look at these days and their transformation into holidays and days of rejoicing in two ways.

    When a person is in a difficult situation, any improvement in his situation engenders a feeling of joy. In daily life, we tend to not properly assess what we have. We look at life as a given and forget to say thank you (to G-d and others) for the simple things in life such as a spouse, family, friends, air to breathe and so much more. It’s only when we are in distress, financially, socially, emotionally or generally, that we start to feel joy in daily When a person is in a wheelchair for months or years and then begins to walk, that’s a reason for a party. When a person who was sick with a chronic illness discovers that he is healthy as an ox, that’s reason to celebrate. When a person drowning has no air to breathe and he finds an oxygen tank, it’s holiday season for him. Because the best things in life we discover (or are reminded) when we don’t have them or something threatens them.

    The same is true for fast days in the era of the Geula. When a person exits a painful state that calls for fasting to a state of peace and stability, it inspires a feeling of joy. As the Metzudos puts it, “Insofar as they were pained during these days while in exile … because bad things occurred on these days and they were pained over them every year,” therefore, the exodus from those negative events causes a feeling of joy and celebration.

    Imagine that every month, on Rosh Chodesh, you have to pay a huge sum of money that you don’t have. Every month, for five years! Every month with pressure, every month a panic, every erev Rosh Chodesh – fear … But what would happen on the first Rosh Chodesh after those five years? After so much time under pressure, tension and fear, after so many gloomy, sad Roshei Chodesh, the moment you remember what could have been (and what actually was) and how now it’s no longer like that, an ordinary breakfast becomes reason to rejoice, but a breakfast instead of a fast lasting thousands of years is indeed reason for “a holiday to G-d tomorrow!”

    The Rebbe reveals that things go even It’s not just that in the future the cancellation of the fast days will be a cause of great joy. Rather, the very idea behind the fast days will be canceled. The Rebbe explains this based on the verse in Yeshaya 12:1, “And you shall say on that day, I will thank You, O Lord, for You were angry with me.” We will thank G-d for the sorrows, suffering and fasts, because when the fast is canceled we will see the true hidden good that was specifically present within the fast itself!

    To explain this, the Rebbe uses an interesting example from the world of teshuva. At the end of the tracate Yoma, the Gemara rules that “one who repents out of love, his deliberate sins become merits for him.” We usually think that teshuva cancels the sin, leaving no memory of it. It is also common to think that the baal teshuva will try, with all his might, to add in Torah study and the punctilious fulfillment of mitzvos (more than one who was always religious) in order to atone for what he did. But why would sins turn into mitzvos?! Since when is eating ham like eating matza and stealing like tzedaka?

    Rather, this is the power of genuine teshuva, that it can transform what appears impossible into the possible, what seems illogical into the logical, total evil into absolute good, and a fast into a Yom Tov unlike any other!

    Since the Geula is dependent on doing teshuva (“Yisrael is not redeemed except with teshuva.”) and by doing teshuva out of love we transform the sin into a mitzva and the evil into good, in the era when fast days are abrogated, when that happy time comes, then not only will fast days be canceled, and not only will they be transformed into a holiday due to the fact that we remember the taste of the evil of exile and the fast day, but the fast day itself will be transformed into absolute good and we will see the utter kindness of G-d in all the terrible things that happened to us in exile. We will see the good within the 17th of Tammuz. We will see the good within Tisha B’Av. We will see the good in the golden calf and we will see the good in destruction of the Mikdash, and then Aharon’s words will be fulfilled, “A holiday for G-d tomorrow” – an actual holiday without any clever interpretations – in the fullest sense!


    We will end with a story about how the hardest times become the key to the light of success. I recently read an interesting story about a solider on furlough who went shopping with his mother in the Machane Yehuda market in Yerushalayim. They were poor, a family of eight who lived in a tiny apartment in Nachlaot. The soldier had a challenging background, suffering from learning difficulties and barely graduating elementary school.

    They walked into a food store and the mother asked for two cans of tomato sauce. The store owner began yelling at her, “Get out of here! I don’t sell two cans, just large quantities to wholesalers.”

    The soldier was offended by his tone. Why did he have to shout? After a while though, he had an idea. If this man wasn’t selling cheaply to private customers, why shouldn’t he set up a store in the market that would sell food items to private people at wholesale prices?

    He took a large warehouse on Rechov Hashikma and began ordering merchandise. The name of this soldier is Rami Levy and the rest is history … Today, Rami Levy owns the biggest food empire in Israel, “Shivuk Hashikma,” which earns millions of shekels a year.

    Good Shabbos!



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