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  • Writer's pictureReuven Sherwin

From the Golden Calf to the Workplace

(Originally published in Hebrew)

The Golden Calf
Golden Calf | Joenomias |

A post about a relevant insight from the golden calf to the workplace.

(* For those who want, a brief reminder about the golden calf story at the end of the post)

The story of the Golden Calf is truly unbelievable.

It contains an incomprehensible element.

On first thought, the incomprehensible is that the people of Israel, who just over a month ago experienced the supreme spiritual status - an almost unmediated connection with God - are deteriorating into a state of worshipping the golden calf.

But even more incomprehensible is the fact that Aharon HaCohen acquiesces in the people's request to an alternate mediator, and begins a process that ends with idolatry of the calf.

How? How does the brother of the leader Moshe, the supreme religious leader, reaches the point where he is actively collaborating with a wild mob to create a golden calf, idolatry in practice?

So far the question.

(The commentators offer many options for this. Contact me if you want some of the replies.)

And the answer I want to suggest is, the based on the flattering article in tractate Avot, Chapter 1, Mishnah 12:

"Hillel would say: Be of the disciples of Aharon, loving peace, pursuing peace, loving the public and drawing them closer to Torah."

The attributes of Aharon HaCohen - the love of peace, the pursuit of peace, the ability to belittle himself, to do whatever is necessary for people to live with each other and love one another - this is what has caused him - even where peace was not a solution - to choose peace.

Aharon chose (in terms of our times) to "postpone the end" - to delay the friction, hoping that in the meantime Moshe would arrive or that they would not be able to collect gold, or that the people would sober up.

In fact, in this case, for the people of Israel, whom he loved so much, Aharon should have fled from peace to controversy, and to criticize and rebuke the people of Israel, risking unpleasantness - and perhaps even loss of life.

Indeed peace is a value, and striving for peace is important.

But sometimes, the desire for peace hides from us the fact that a healthy dispute will solve the problem faster and healthier, and lay the foundation for better relations later on.

And sometimes at the workplace, the right option is to argue. Out of respect. Out of appreciation. But to argue. And fight. And rebuke. And say what you think.

And out of the real controversy, a healthy peace will emerge.

[Written following a conversation with a colleague, about the value and importance of peace - and about the danger of pursuing peace - in healthy and proper working relationships. Any connection to politics is solely the responsibility of the reader.]


(*) Moses - the leader of the People of Israel - ascends Mount Sinai to receive the Tablets of the Covenant.

The people of Israel expect his return at a specific time - but Moses does not come at the time when they expect him.

The people of Israel lose their patience, and even though it's been barely forty days since the revelation at Sinai - a direct revelation of God to his people - they demand that Aharon finds a replacement for Moses - someone else to be the go-between the people and the Lord.

Aharon HaCohen begins with a process that ends with the production of the golden calf and the people of Israel dancing around the calf...

From here the story deteriorates ... (the full story can be read in the source in Exodus, chapter 32)

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