Building From Fear: The Proverbial Golden Calf

 I am sure the title of this post seems like a contradiction to many of you. How can you build from a place where you are paralyzed with fear; how do we create when we ourselves feel broken.

This week's Torah portion (and no, before you stop reading, I am not writing a fully religious post here, so try to bear with me) talks about the time Moses goes to Mount Sinai to receive what will then become the Ten Commandments. While he is up there, the people become restless. There is a prevalent fear that he is taking too long and that they have been left with no guidance or hope. In order to find comfort, Aaron and the men collect all the gold and build a Golden Calf, in hope that this will become a God that will then guide them and give them comfort. Of course, many of you know what happens next: Moses comes down with the Tablets, God gets mad, makes Moses tear the Tablets, he sends a plague to the Israelites, gives them 40 more years in the desert, and Moses goes up the mountain again in hopes to reason with God and get new Tablets (Spoiler alert: he does). The Golden Calf is torn down, the Israelites learn their lesson (well, sort of... they mess up again later on, but thats a story for another day), and the pilgrimage to the Promised Land continues.

And to insert some Feminist pride into the story: The women fought against the concept of building the Golden Calf and did not lose faith, and were then rewarded by God by designating Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the Hebrew month) as their own personal holiday. (Yay! Girl Power!)

When I woke up this morning and remembered that this was the Torah portion of this week, it got me wondering: what do we build in times of fear?

It's March again. Last year, around this time, we entered into the "will it or won't it" stage of figuring out whether the virus would just go away, or whether we would be stuck at home for an indefinite amount of time. At first, we rolled with the punches: we moved our classes temporarily to Zoom, figured out a way to meet with our families for Passover virtually, maybe stay home for a few weeks and wait for it to pass. It wasn't until the permanency of our current situation started becoming more apparent that the panic started to set in, and temporary solutions required more permanent options. 

See, this is where the lessons we learned from the Golden Calf finally came into fruition. The reality is, we could have chosen the option to live in fear, hide in our own spaces, and find comfort in our own unhealthy survival habits (COVID 15, anyone??). What happened once reality set in was stronger than we could have imagined: we started finding ways to support First Responders, we found ways to support our struggling neighbors; we came together as a unit not to build one proverbial Golden Calf, but to strengthen our already existing bonds in order to survive together, making a conscious effort to not give up hope for a better future.

When paralyzed with fear, we are given two options: fight or flight. In ancient times, the Israelites chose the latter: run from the unknown and doubt their own faith. Nowadays, we have chosen to fight. We have chosen to stay home and still speak up, we have created online communities that strive to amplify voices in search for equity, we have found ways to support our neighbors and build meaningful spaces that allow us to feel safe within our fear and embrace it. We have slowly found a way to sit in our discomfort and build from it.

Even in the hardest of times, what this week's portion (and this whole pandemic) has taught me is that we should strive to find a way to build from faith, not fear. We should build from the idea that our discomfort and fear are just temporary and that there is hope, rather than try to erase it. My challenge for you this week is to find that place where you build strength, hope, and joy. Build on the faith that our patience is worth it, and that hope will turn into tangible results.


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