Shemini: The Calf and the Heavenly Flame


This week’s class is dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Rivkie Barber, Shlucha of the Rebbe in Melbourne, Australia. Yartzeit 19 Adar.


By her children, Levi & Perel Shmotkin, Dovi & Mushka Barber, Chili & Chanie Biston, Efraim & Shaina Duchman, Leah Barber and Mendel Barber.

After months of work, Aaron & Moses inaugurate the Tabernacle, and… nothing happens. The Divine presence remained absent. Why didn’t G-d’s presence rest in the Tabernacle? What was still missing?

Lesson Contents:

A. Heavenly Flames

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the inauguration of the Tabernacle. The sacrifices were offered, the service was performed, but the Divine presence did not rest. The fire did not descend from heaven. Aaron told Moses, “Surely, it’s because of the Golden Calf!” Moses told him to offer a calf, and then the heavenly fire descended (Source 1-3).

B. The Middleman

What exactly happened here?

Commentaries explain that the “mixed multitude” — the main instigators of the Golden Calf — did not deny G-d’s existence. they just wanted a middleman, because they felt that G-d was too lofty for them. It is reminiscent of Maimonides’ explanation regarding the evolution of idol worship (Source 4). 

When Aaron offered the calf, he was burning the middleman. It was a statement that G-d’s connection with the Jewish people is immediate and close, no intermediaries necessary.

C. The Modern-Day Calf 

Today, Torah and mitzvot represent the Tabernacle and its vessels. As the Rebbe explains in Reshimos, Torah is an internal worship of G-d, and Mitzvot is an external form (Source 5).

The message of this story is that a Jew should always remember his direct and constant connection to G-d. Whether he is praying or working or eating (see also Source 6), he must always remember this direct connection, and then G-d’s presence will dwell within him.

Textbook & advertising material


Do you enjoy Jewish Insights?

We are honored to provide this service to Shluchim free-of-charge. Please help us and be able to continue this great project.

  • $18Suggested donation.
  • Option: Please charge my card $18 weekly, for each lesson

Sponsor a lesson:

  • $360 – Sponsor A Weekly Lesson in One Language (English or Hebrew).
  • $650 – Sponsor A Weekly Lesson in both Languages (English & Hebrew).

Become a Partner:

  • $1,800 – Partner of Jewish Insights
Click here to donate

Thank you for your support!

1 comment

My account

Welcome Guest (Login)