Take a look at people who walk their pets. It may not always
be such a pleasant experience. It may be raining out or snowing, for instance,
but the dog never seems to mind. And what dog wants, dog gets! If it wants to
take a pit stop and you want to keep going, or, if it wants to trot and you
prefer to stroll, who wins? Indeed, it is often difficult to determine who’s
waking who, who is really in charge, who is master.
But what does this have to do with the non-pet owners among
us? I have news for you, dear readers: (almost) none of us are exempt from this
rule. Being human, we all have an animal instinct, an animalistic side to our
character that tends to lead us away from purely G-dly pursuits.
But it is not this fact alone - the fact that we are all
"pet-owners" - that is problematic, for it is necessary to employ and to harness
our animal strength, as it is said, "there are many harvests of grain in the
strength of an ox." The real problem is, rather, that we identify with
this part of our personality, our alter egos, to the extent that we cease
to master it, and all-too-often it masters us.
There are, however, the rare exceptions to this rule: those
who have managed to completely master their animal nature to the point that they
no longer have any animal characteristics at all, but are simply true
reflections of their Maker through and through.
Now, at the time of the Exodus from Egypt, there lived a
certain Jew named, Moshe, the leader of the Jewish people, who was called,
Ish Elokim, a Man of G-d, a man who was a veritable conduit for pure
G-dliness. In him, there was no rivalry from the animal side, but a dictatorship
of the G-dly soul alone. Moshe Rabbeinu functioned as G-d’s chariot, as it were,
for his every move was directed in accordance with Divine will, and his words
were the words of G-d, as it is said, "the Divine presence speaks from his
Thus, there was no fault in Moshe’s words when he said that
he would return from Mount Sinai after forty days. But after 39 days, the people
lost faith; they lost count of the days and were led to believe that Moshe was
not going to return - ever! As it is written: "And the nation saw that Moshe was
delayed in descending from the mountain. And the nation gathered to Aharon,
saying to him, ‘rise and make for us gods to go before us, for we do not know
what has become of this one, Moshe, the man who took us out from the land of
Egypt.’" And as Rashi explains: "The Satan came and confused the world, and
showed a vision of darkness and obscurity and confusion, as if to say, certainly
Moshe died. The Satan showed them a vision of Moshe - that the [angels] were
carrying him up in the atmosphere of the firmament of Heaven." Deceived by their
animal instincts, the people lost faith in their leader and sought an
alternative, the Golden Calf.
In a 1980 address, the Rebbe explained the misguided
rationale that led to the sin of the Golden Calf:
The approach of the Jewish people with regard to the Golden
Calf might have seemed to have validity from a Torah perspective. They argued
that since they live in a physical world, a world that needs to be refined from
its natural state of coarse materiality, an agent is needed here to interface
between the Alm-ghty and the world.
In fact, the precedent for such an agent was already set by
G-d Himself, for He did not take the Jewish people out of Egypt "by Himself"; He
did so, rather, through Moshe. And since the nation "did not know what happened
to him [to Moshe]," since the people were in a state where they believed that
their agent was no more, they wanted another in his place ...
The difficulty of their predicament is seen in the fact that
until then "they believed in G-d and" - of consequence - "in Moshe His servant,"
but this was not so on that day [when they fell to the sin of the Golden Calf].
Belief in G-d is inseparable from the belief in "Moshe His
servant." If we lose faith, G-d forbid, in the words of Moshe, the mouthpiece of
the Alm-ghty, we open ourselves up to "darkness and obscurity and confusion" and
the total denial of G-d.
We must strive to master ourselves so that we are always
aware that "Moshe is true and his Torah is true," and then we will be
immediately freed from our animalistic instincts and our Evil Inclination, which
lead us away from the truth, then we will clearly see the way of G-d in the true
and complete Redemption.