UPDATED MAY 26 2015
It says in the Parsha “And when the people heard these evil tidings, they mourned; and no man put on him his ornaments” (Exodus 33:4).
1) Why do the Children of Israel respond to the bad news that they will not be led directly by God by removing their ornaments?
2) Next, God affirms the people’s decision not to wear their ornaments, commanding them, “Remove your Ornaments,” and adding, “[Then] I may know what to do with you” (33:5). What is it about the removal of the ornaments that causes God to reconsider His relationship with the people?
The Malbim notes that the majority of our ancestor did not worship the calf, but they also didn’t protest against it and stop its worshipers from carrying out their actions they are no longer deserving of the gifts of God, that they have sinned gravely and destroyed their intimate connection with God. Finally, the shedding of the ornaments represents an understanding that they have utilized some of those very gifts to betray God, to construct and create the anti-covenant. Its written “And Yisrael were stripped of their Crowns-ornaments (‘edyom’) from Har Chorev” (mount Sinai). “When Israel said ” nasa vi nishma” (‘ we will do and we will hear ‘, 60,000 ministering angels came down and put 2 Crowns on each of their heads; One for Na’aseh and one for Nishmah. When they sinned with the Golden Calf, 120,000 angels of destruction descended and took from them both Crowns” (Talmud, Shabbat 18a). The Avnei Nezer questioned this, arguing that since they had sinned by their actions only the Crown of Naaseh should have been taken. They still had retained the merit of Nishmah. However, ‘ Crown’ is a matter of kingship that separates the king from the rest of the people, so too, their Crowns separated each person from their own personality and own individuality. All their actions were only for the sake of Heaven, rather than for the spiritual satisfaction, status or good feelings that they may bring. For such an achievement not only actions are needed but also ‘ Nishmah’. After the Golden Calf, their religious actions were once again primarily for their own spiritual benefit and not primarily for the sake of Heaven. So the angels took back both the Crown of Naaseh and that of Nishmah (Israel said “we will do agreeing to accept the Torah even before hearing it”).
3) In addition to the above, the Torah draws a connection between the ornaments and Har Chorev (33:6). What is the meaning of this connection to Sinai?
Let us first turn our attention to the third question raised above, the issue of the connection between the ornaments and Sinai, the meaning of the phrase “edyam me-Har Chorev” (33:5). This phrase might be interpreted as meaning something like “at Har Chorev” or “from Har Chorev and on.” If so, the Torah simply describes the location at which the Israelites removed their ornaments, or the chronological point at which the event took place. However, Rashi (33:3), in accordance with the Talmud (Shabbat 88a), claims that “edyam” refers to the “crowns that the Israelites were given at Sinai when they proclaimed, ‘Na’aseh ve-nishma’ (We will do and we will listen).” Accordingly, the phrase “edyam meihar Chorev” should be interpreted as meaning “from Har Chorev” or “of Har Chorev.”
.What exactly are the ornamentations of Chorev?
The Crowns referred to here are the spiritual Crowns that they received at Har Sinai, when they proclaimed “Na’aseh ve’nishna”,and they then were injected them with the power of invincibility and eternity. R’ Chaim Volozhiner writes in his monumental book, Nefesh Hachaim, that these crowns were the actual breath that came from GOD’s mouth during the Aseres Hadibros (The Ten Commandments), of which the first two were spoken by GOD directly to the people). In what sense does the breath of GOD manifest itself as crown for man? To understand this we must understand what occurred when GOD’s breath was first blown into man. When man was created, the Torah states that GOD blew the breath of life into his nostrils. The breath of life refers to man’s coming to life after receiving his Neshama, his soul, and not simply the life force that animates all creatures. GOD’s breath in man is his Neshama.
Now, this is not to be understood that GOD once blew the breath of life into man long ago, and never connected to him again The sages compare GOD’s connection to man through the breathing of a Neshama (soul) into him to that of a glass maker as he is blowing the glass. The book Nefesh Hachayim explains that when a glass maker is actually blowing the glass there are three places that contain his breath. There is breath that is actually in the glass creation that is being fashioned, in the tube that he blows into to make the glass creation, and there is breath that is still in the blower’s mouth. So too, when GOD blows the breath of life into a person, there is the Neshama that is in the person’s body, the Neshama that is still in GOD’s mouth, so to speak, and there is also a connector of the Neshama in the body to that part of the Neshama which is still left with GOD. Thus, even after a person is put in this world, the person still remains connected to GOD through his Neshama. When we say that the crowns that Yisrael received at the giving of the Torah was from GOD’s mouth, it means that it was additional Neshama that they received.
Just as the Neshama is received directly from GOD’s mouth, so too the Torah is from His mouth, so to speak. King Solomon (proverbs 2:6) says, “GOD gives wisdom, from His mouth, knowledge and understanding.” The Torah and knowledge of it, is referred to as being “from His mouth”. The Medrash expounds this point further with a analogy. The analogy is of a king who had a son who came home one day from school and found the king sitting with a plate full of food. The son requested some food of his father, and the king complied. The son said, “I do not want the food from the plate, I want the food from your mouth.” The king took a piece from his mouth and gave it to the son. The analogy is telling us that Yisrael requested more than just knowledge and a law. They wanted the Torah that is from GOD’s mouth, a living law. The Torah came from GOD’s mouth which is the source of all Neshamot, and therefore could only come with an additional Neshama, the crowns.
Why did these crowns come specifically as a result of saying Na’aseh V’nishmah? To answer this we first have to understand what the meaning of Na’aseh V’nishmah is. Yisrael agreed to fulfill the Torah before even finding out what it was that GOD wanted from them. They were in essence saying, “We have an absolute faith in You, and just want to do whatever You think is right. We cancel our da’as in place of Yours.” Saying Na’aseh V’nishmah was an act of self effacement before GOD. A act of self effacement before GOD, is in essence a direct and very strong connection to Him – I am nothing, and all there is, is GOD.
Connection of two beings is called Dat (Knowledge), a connection between man and wife is referred to as da’as (a man knows his wife). When man connects to GOD, that is called Dat. Referring once again to the verse in proverbs, it says “from your mouth-Dat knowledge”, that is to say that the direct connection that man has to GOD, is “from mouth” the Torah and Neshama. This is the essence of Yisrael, the Torah and GOD are one. They are one and they all come back together at the mouth of GOD.
If we take a closer look at the Midrash with the king and his son, we find an additional insight. The son says to his father the king, “All that I request is that which is from your mouth.” This tells us that if we want what is in GOD’s mouth- the Torah- then we must request it. This is demonstrated further in another Medrash on the same verse. The Medrash relates the following story, “The People of Alexandria asked R’ Yehoshua Ben Chananya, ‘What can man do in order to be wise?’ He answered, ‘Spend a lot of time learning and little time doing business.’ They responded, ‘Many have tried and were not successful.’ R’ Yehoshua answered them, ‘Then you must request mercy from the One to Whom the wisdom belongs, as it is stated, ‘Becouse God gives wisdom from mouth’” In order to receive knowledge, you must request it through Tefillah. Tefillah makes a person closer to GOD.
This is what it means when it says that “Moshe’s face shone”. This is the light of Tefillin, and Moshe merited to receive all the light of Tefillin. “And Moshe would take the tent“—this also is the lights of Tefillin. Moshe merited all of the lights of Tefillin. “Therefore now put your ornaments off of you” (Ibid., 33:5)—these are the lights of Tefillin. Before the sin, the Tefillin were just a supernal shining, the supernal shining of Chanoch. That was before the sin of the golden calf. After the sin of the golden calf, it was no longer possible to see the lights of the tefillin. The light of the Tefillin was hidden away. It was hidden away within the Tefillin themselves. Before the sin of the golden calf, one saw actual lights: supernal shining. “And Moshe would take the tent”—he took all the lights of the tefillin of all the Jewish people, and that is what made his face shine. Before then, every single Jew was shining by himself. Afterward, Moshe’s shining was the sum of all the shine of the Jewish people together. Before then, they weren’t afraid to look at Moshe’s face, because they all shone, but afterwards, when Moshe was the only one shining with this light, then they were afraid to look in Moshe’s face.
Because the women did not contribute their jewels to the making of the molten calf, they maintained a loyalty at Sinai; they never stripped off their crowns.
Today, much 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. Torah Judaism gets turned into a Golden Calve when Torah gets stripped down to only a religion of learning jurisprudence with its spiritual teachings and message lost and being portrayed as only a religion of ritual practices, each of which have nothing to do with the original sources of classical spiritual meaning of the Torah.
All this is as 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 with their stricter and stricter approach to law with out spiritual meaning or devotion, they have built for themselves a modern Golden Calf. It is because of this religious approach to Torah Judaism that not many bother to look for, or to listen for the Still Soft Voice that still echoes within us from its inception at Sinai. People fail to even recognize that the purpose of the Torah was to connect man to God so that we can know God in this world, Love God and cleave to God. This way of Judaism of Religion without spiritual awareness, is not Torah Judaism at all but as worshiping another god, a new golden calf, we have all too many Golden Calves today, this is only the Torah version. Most people these days revolves around something other than the God and that thing is their “Golden Calf”, be it a quest for money of fame or what ever else that has no part in holiness that is the primary motivating force in their life. But we shall come close to the God by the Torah.
Said Reish Lakish “The Holy One, Blessed be He, will in the future return them [those crowns] to us, as it says, ‘Those redeemed by GOD will return and come to Tzion in song, and everlasting happiness upon their heads.'”