In the same week we read in the Torah of The Red Heifer, we are forced to confront its’ child, a Calf of Gold (i.e. the Mask of Masecha) / the contrast, like the sheen of Gold, is blinding.
The image of a lethal Golden-touch stretches back millennia, even to King Midas of Greek mythology, as yet another classical exemplar of human-god-idol-overreach.
Although the Greek myth carries a different connotation than that of the Golden Calf: that of worshiping gold, Midas is visited by the god Dionysus, a god of wine and wild abandonment, who grants his wish that anything within his grasp turns to gold.
The Biblical story instead allows us a visit by Gd with an entirely different consequence. While it is Gd who reluctantly agrees to pardon the Golden Calf worshippers, it is the Levite tribe, the newly forming and aoverzealous Israelite priesthood, which deals a death-like blow to those who would offer their worship (i.e. dance, touch and offer in inappropriate ways) to a seductive Golden idol.
Like all mythologies, the Midas morality tale is double-edged and yet unlike the Biblical tale, unforgiving of the innocent. When Midas reaches for a grape, the very symbol of wild bacchanalia-like merriment, it turns to gold, intoxicating, but inedible and imbibable. When he foolishly embraces his innocent daughter to whom he is devoted and practically worships, she too turns into gold, dying an earthly death, yet undiminished in her value of gold and gold alone.
It is the Red Heifer, according to both the Torah and the Jewish tradition, accompanied by the Midrashim and legends all of which suggest that it is the Parah Adumah which can clean up the mess of the calf and only the mother, as it were, which has the power to both heal and save.
Perhaps it would be better to use a more descriptive and therefore a more exacting lexicon or idiomatic terminology:
‘Parah Adumah,’ a ‘Heifer of flesh and blood (adumah, red or in the idiom of the time, i.e. flesh and blood). A mother, unblemished by the impurities of neither lucre nor bacchanalia, all of which permeate the world of our ancestors, and unsurprisingly, of our world today.
Hoping we will gather soon for our class gathering this Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM EST, just in time to begin our preparations required for the Passover. Seemingly a long and tortured road, one we can speak about practically ’till the cows come home, so to speak.