In the biblical chapter, Ki Tisa, Moses ascends Mount Sinai after telling the Israelites that he will return in 40 days. They wait patiently but miscalculate his return by six hours and thus begin to worry that the righteous leader that brought them out of slavery in Egypt will not come back. Feeling quite abandoned, they approach Aaron, Moses’ brother, and ask him to make a god to stand in place of Moses.
Aaron obliges and fashions a golden calf idol out of jewelry offered up by the people. Then he presents it to the Israelites and tells them, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
Even after the many miracles the Israelites had witnessed, they still felt they needed something to guide them. They believed security could only be found in the physical world. This is not an uncommon phenomenon. In fact, it’s human nature to feel safe in the physical world. The ground beneath our feet and the roofs over our heads can be very reassuring. We come to find comfort in physical things—a warm bowl of soup, a brand new car, a fuzzy blanket, a diamond ring. We give things meaning and as a result feel secure when they are in our lives, insecure when they are not. The truth is, the physical world is fleeting. Reality transcends physical objects.
The Israelites struggled with this idea and lacked certainty in the Creator. From our modern point of view it’s easy to see they had nothing to worry about. With a bit of patience and faith, they would have realized all was well in good time. However, we struggle with the same consciousness and continue to create golden calves for ourselves.
It is all too easy for us to put our faith in the physical world. We gain a false sense of security from things, imagining our lives will be better when we own a nice home, drive a nice car, or upgrade our wardrobes. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we tend to seek fulfillment in physical objects. Yet, reality lives in the non-physical world. It lives in human interaction, acts of sharing, love, and prayer. The only true security to be found is in the Light created by our interactions with others and in our certainty.
When the physical world is used to raise consciousness, it can be beneficial. But it is important to remember, “Consciousness is not something we can feel and touch,” says Rav Berg, “this is what the kabbalists mean when they say mind (consciousness) over (controls) matter (physicality). Mind over matter means that our consciousness controls our physical world.”
The physical world is simply a tool for us to transform and manifest more Light. Rav Berg explains, “Physicality was created so that we can remove the obstacles of physicality like time, space, and motion with our consciousness. The only reason these limitations even exist is because our consciousness is so embedded in the physical reality.” When we allow ourselves to look beyond the physical world, we can see the Light of the Creator. Light surrounds us when we help a friend in need, when we perform acts of charity, or when we experience unconditional love. Light supports us when we have certainty that the Creator is near, even when we don’t see Him.
The golden calves we create are only crutches, helping us gain greater spiritual awareness. Spiritual leaders like Moses may come and go. Physical objects may fail us. But there is no replacement for our connection to the Light of the Creator.