There are two aspects to a story in the Torah: the story itself, and where it appears. Some of those passages seem really out of order, which led to the Talmudic concept of “there is no before or after in the Torah”; that is, don’t try to figure out chronological order in Torah. Still we can ask, “Why is this story here?” and try to learn something from the placement. In my Tuesday Torah group, we call it looking for the scotch tape…asking what connects one section to another. Last week we read all about Aaron’s bling – all the details of the very special clothing he wore as High Priest. Robes, hats, tunics, jewelry…big time bling, and the people were impressed. God may have told Moses to invest Aaron with the High Priest role, but it didn’t hurt that he was wearing that impressive outfit.
Now this week we read about the lowest point in the Israelite’s story – the Golden Calf. Moses was a long time coming back down from the mountain, and the people were getting restless. They turned to Aaron and said, “Make us a god….” Aaron did; it was a Golden Calf. The people gathered around it, singing and dancing. Moses came down and flipped out, dropped the tablets and had to talk God out of destroying the entire people. Drab, plain Moses, dressed in sandals and robes, stood between the people and God, convincing God not to wipe them out and start over.
Perhaps there’s a connection between the grandiose investment of Aaron as High Priest and the Golden Calf. Is it possible that after such an impressive show of pomp and glitter, the people turn to the same kind of glitter when they start losing their hope in Moses? Aaron, man of gold comes to the rescue with a calf of gold.
We tend to imbue well-dressed people with trust and authority. We are often blinded, literally and figuratively, by the sparkles and light. The glitzy and the glamorous -they must know more, they must be more certain, so we put them in charge. Do we pay more attention to the opinions of people who are not just in the public but glamorously so? It’s hard to take our eyes away from people on red carpets and in ceremonies, we listen when they speak into microphones, and follow their every moves.
The people came to Aaron to build them a god; perhaps they knew he was the man for the job because he was robed in ceremony they craved. Perhaps the Israelites trusted not just Aaron the man, but Aaron the Man in the Garb. It didn’t end well, and we would do well to remember that when next we are too easily blinded by authority clothed in unholy gold.