Make no mistake! The Golden Calf is alive and well and living in your community. And in mine!
We worship the Golden Calf each time we opt for what is easy and selfish over what is just and right.
This year, as we often do, we read the story of the Calf on the Shabbat following Purim. The stories teach similar lessons. In the Book of Esther Vashti was Queen of Persia, the most powerful country in the world. Yet when her husband ordered her to appear before his drunken friends, she chose dignity and self-respect over ease and luxury.
Esther made a similar choice when she put her life on the line to save our people. The Golden Calf lured both of these courageous women, but—in glorious examples for us today–they were able to resist.
In a Cherokee legend a grandfather explains to his grandchild: “Two wolves fight within each person. One is selfish and greedy and the other is caring and kind.”
“Which one wins?” the child asked.
“The one that you feed,” his grandfather answered.
In Germany, of course, a ferocious wolf is the symbol of the horrors of the Nazi era. But wolves can also be kind, gentle and nurturing.
As once again we ponder the lessons of the Purim story and the account of the Golden Calf we, like Vashti and Esther, must choose between that which is real and enduring over that which is fleeting and vain. We can follow God’s path or that of the Golden Calf. Or as the Cherokee teach, we must decide which wolf we wish to feed.