Thursday, November 6, 2008

Golden Calves

"There is no generation that does not receive a particle [of retribution] for the making of the golden calf." And there is no generation that does not make a golden calf. In every generation some sage will earn his keep by selling perfume adjacent to a whore house. Dare the sage feign surprise when his son strays? Sefer Ha-Bloggadah sits on the same "street" with awesomesex ( Are there no readers here who have not also clicked on blogs that feature golden calves?

Our text proclaims that God is not only long suffering toward the righteous, but toward the wicked as well. Why would the righteous tax God's patience at all? The Holy One can surely distinguish one who is momentarily overtaken by the evil inclination from one who is drowning in it. And why does God's patience extend to the wicked? Is it that there is a spark of potential holiness in even the most dedicated sinner?

The polarity of these texts confounds me. Where is the wickedness? What is wicked about confusion? We yearned communally for something beautiful and mistook a barren vessel for a holy container. It happens every day to the high and the low, to scholars and tramps, and no day will pass when it does not happen somewhere on this earth.

1 comment:

Howard said...

I think the lovely point about this midrash is that it compares the Rabbi who opens the perfume shop with G!d. This foolish scholar who comes off badly represents G!d in the metaphor.

If one of us used such metaphors today the "true believers" would crucify us (my inappropriate metaphor but it seems to fit).