My poor children.
We speak a mix of English and Hebrew in the house. That being, if you came and you listened to our conversations and you don’t know Hebrew, you probably won’t understand a lot. However, even if they speak English with an Israeli accent (so I’m told), they still know certain things that many Israelis don’t.
For example, my ten-year-old son just started to learn how to read English. Somebody in the community, whose parents are American, has this method of teaching how to read. It’s a group of six or seven boys, my son being the only one who speaks English “fluently.” The teacher is teaching the word “it," which is pronounced “eat.” My son says, “No, ‘eat’ is ‘to eat,’ ‘it’ is pronounced ‘it,’” to which the teacher disagrees. “'Eat'” has two meanings, one is ‘to eat’ and one is ‘it.’" My son decided that it was a battle which he was not going to win.
It’s always a good sign when you have a question on the parsha in the beginning of the week, and somehow you hear a talk in the middle of the week that deals with that exact same question. There were several incidences of the Jewish nation rebelling against Hashem during their 40-year sojourn in the desert. The two most popular ones were the episode of the spies speaking poorly of Eretz Yisroel and that of the Sin of the Golden Calf, in this week’s parsha.
It hit me while learning the parsha, how many people participated in this particular sin? According to the Torah, 3000 people were killed as a punishment. Out of 600,000 men, that’s 0.5 percent. Add women, children, and older people, 0.15 percent. Yet, we see Hashem telling Moshe that he wants to wipe out the entire nation and start anew with Moshe. Something doesn’t seem right here. Why should the entire nation suffer from 0.15 percent of the population's sinning?
So, Rav Soloman gave his thought to the exact same question.
Let’s say you had one trouble-maker in a shul, trying to start up with the rav. However, the rav is very well-liked and respected in his community. What’s going to happen? The guy won’t get far. If the community supports the rav, nobody will put up with him.
What happened here? Aharon and Chur (Aharon’s nephew) tried to stand up to the trouble-makers. So, the trouble-makers kill Chur. Aharon, afraid for his life, tries to stall them until Moshe comes.
So, now you have 3000 people out of 600,000 men, taking control of the situation, and for whatever reason, the 597,000 are afraid to stand up to them.
When you have a generation where such a minority can cause such trouble and the community at large is apathetic, THAT is a blemish on the community itself.
The sin of the Golden Calf was not necessarily the incident itself, but rather the inability of the generation to stand up and side with their leaders against those who were willing to make an insurrection.
That is why Hashem had "thoughts" of wiping out the entire nation. If they were unable to stand up for what was right, even if they were such a large majority, there was an issue with them on the inside.
Later, we see the opposite, when Pinchus, with permission from Moshe, killed Zimri when Zimri was off promoting immorality. How was Pinchus rewarded? A “covenant of peace." By standing up for Hashem (with permission from the leader of the generation), he saved the Jewish nation.
This is something to keep in mind. In every generation there are those who are out to cause trouble. Sometimes it is better to keep quiet, sometimes it is not. That decision is for those bigger than we. However, when they say "we fight," it is our job to fight, in whichever manner they choose.
Have a great Shabbos!