By Rabbi Nosson Greenberg
In this week’s parsha we learn about the unfortunate history-changing episode of the Eigel, where Klal Yisrael miscalculated, panicked, and allowed themselves to be bamboozled by the Satan into serving a Golden Calf. The Calf itself came into existence when the cabal ganged up on Aharon demanding a replacement for Moshe who was thought dead. Aharon haKohen tried to stall them and directed them to go and procure gold earrings from their wives and kids from which he would manufacture a calf (see Ramban). Instead, the menfolk themselves ripped off their own earrings and the rest is history. The question though, is why did Aharon choose the earrings over any other piece of jewelry? Why didn’t he ask for their bracelets or necklaces?
Perhaps we can say as follows: The Yid consists of two components; the guf-body and the neshama-soul. Normally the neshama can only sin by association. Meaning, the neshama comes from such a pure source and is so connected to G-d it has no ability to sin. However, since it is sheathed in a corporeal entity, when that entity sins it drags the innocent neshama down with it into the morassy world of sin. But there have been a couple of times in history that the world was saturated with such corruption, debauchery, depravity or confusion that even the neshama itself became compromised and stained its pure state. An example of this was the generation of the Mabul where the world was so debase that the level of sin descended and infiltrated into the usually pure inner core of man’s neshama (see Halekach Vehalibuv, Noach 5761).
The sin of the Eigel is accepted as one of the worst sins in history. It took place at a time and place where Bnai Yisrael were still in basking in the aftereffects of their wedding with Hashem. And somehow they lost themselves and ended up dancing around a young bovine-like idol. It may well be that here, too, the sin encroached upon the usually unsullied neshama piercing its protective layers of purity, causing it to be riddled with particles of sin. Aharon haKohen sensed this, and using the earring he subliminally sent a message to Bnai Yisrael to where they were heading. You see the earring is unique in comparison to other pieces of jewelry. [Most] other pieces accessorize the body by wrapping themselves around body parts like a finger ring, a necklace or a bracelet (even the nose-ring was not worn by piercing the columella or the nostrils, rather it hung off laces wrapped around the forehead – see Ibn Ezra, Beraishis, 24:22). They represent the normal relationship between a sinning guf & its neshama, where the neshama is wrapped and adorned by sin but it itself has not been compromised. The earring, however, penetrates the body, piercing the lobe, becoming firmly entrenched. This is akin to the virulent strain of sin known as the Sin of the Eigel, which breached the boundaries of the guf piercing into the neshama of the Bnai Yisrael with tragic results.
This is a biggie, hinted Aharon to the rabble, you might want to reconsider. But his reasoning fell on deaf and extremely divested ears, creating a spiritual calamity from which we are endeavoring to recover to this very day.