Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Holy Cosmic Cows!

In this week's parsha we read of the Egel HaZahav and in the maftir of the Parah Adumah. Rashi teaches that many nuances of the Parah Adumah were in order to bring forgiveness for the sin of the Egel HaZahav. A parable is given that a child of a maidservant of the palace dirtied the palace. When this was noticed, the king ordered the mother to clean up for her child. So too, the mother cow, the Parah Adumah, is required to clean up after her child, the Egel HaZahav.

One can ask (as the Rishonim have), why did Klal Yisrael decide to make an image of a calf as opposed to a different form. The Ibn Ezra in his short commentary suggests that it may be based on similar reasons as to why the people of India worship cows, but he does not elaborate on this concept. It has been suggested that these people worship these animals because of the following astronomical reason.

As has been posted in the past, over hundreds of years the stars' positions in the night sky shift slightly. For example, the constellations have moved enough from the time of Chazal until the present that based on the constellations themselves we should say that Nisan is the month of Dagim because the stars of Pisces rise with the sun in Nisan.

If one looks at the positions of the stars as they were at the time of Creation he will notice that the spring equinox occurred in the constellation Shor/Taurus. Essentially this means that on the first day of spring the sun would be located in this constellation. This eventually shifted into T'leh/Aries and is now in Dagim/Pisces.

This point in the sky was given extreme significance in ancient times because it coincided with the beginning of the growing season and was symbolic of development. In fact, it was often seen as symbolic of that entire time period in history. Therefore, people at the time worshipped cows which are the physical representation of the constellation Shor. Even after the stars shifted, the people held onto their old beliefs and continued to worship these animals, hence the practices in India.

Interestingly enough, we are taught that Bnai Yisrael corrected Adam HaRishon's sin when they received the Torah at Har Sinai. Perhaps, the people felt, incorrectly, that they wanted to replicate the order of the world as it was in Creation. Therefore, when they chose symbol of the nature of their worship, they chose that which represented the time period of the time of Creation, a calf. Of course, this was incorrect and this was not what Hashem wanted.

Fascinatingly, the brightest and most recognizable star in Shor is Aldebaran. Aldebaran is an extremely red star. When Hashem granted a way to eradicate the sin, He did so through the Parah Adumah (as mentioned above). Perhaps, this alludes to the redness of the most recognizable star in the constellation. It could be a way to show that we are, in fact, becoming purified and reaching the level of Adam HaRishon prior to his sin. We are restoring the world to its original perfected form prior to sin as the people in the Wilderness intended. This world has Shor in its leadership post, but the proper method of expressing this is not with idolatry and images, it is through the exact method prescribed by Hashem!

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