“Go, descend — for your nation that you have brought up from Egypt has become corrupt. They have strayed quickly from the way that I have commanded them.” (Shemot 32:7–8)
The rapid decline of the Jewish people from the angelic beings who stood at Har Sinai and saw the sounds as the commandments were spoken, to a throng engaging in revelry in honor of a golden calf is somewhat incomprehensible. One’s first thought is, “How could it possibly happen that Hashem’s Chosen People could fall so far so fast?”
A Torah leader’s status is tied to the performance level of his students. Moshe Rabbeinu was enabled to ascend to Heaven after his flock accepted the Torah at Sinai. However, while he was still in the spiritually lofty atmosphere, they sinned and Hashem told Moshe, “Go descend!”
With the help of our holy commentators, we can look at the words of the passuk and gain insight into the underlying cause of the tragedy. Bnei Yisrael were not criticized for merely losing their way — they were admonished for doing so “quickly.” Aharon sensed that the people were acting hastily and moving in the direction of mindless sin and so he told them to collect ornaments of gold and silver from their wives and he would then create for them the leader they demanded. His hope was that it would take time to convince their spouses to relinquish their jewelry.
The men acted rapidly and removed their own jewelry and delivered it without delay to Aharon. Aharon then announced (Shemot 32:5): “A holiday to G-d tomorrow!” The people pressed for immediate action.
This weapon of the evil inclination is one of his most oft-used and powerful tools. When one rushes, one cannot think clearly. When a person is in a hurry, that person does not foresee the consequences of foolishness. One hurries and one errs!
There was a time where people regularly chose to “sleep on it” and decide in the morning. People today feel tomorrow is much too late. In the blessing “Hashkiveinu” in our evening prayers, we beseech Our Creator to “remove the Satan from before us and from behind us.” It is clear that “before us” refers to his attempts to block us from doing good. But what is meant by “from behind us”? If he is in back of us he cannot hinder or block our mitzvah performance. Rather, behind us means his ability to push us from behind and get us to rush into a mistake.
In today’s world we are bombarded with calls to hurry. The fantastic money-saving offer is “for a limited time only.” We are prompted to rush to the store “before they are all gone!” He who delays risks loss. The truth is, “deals” don’t run out — they just morph into similar but different offers.
Even in spiritual matters, Satan can convince one to act hastily to grab the mitzvah when his intention is to trap you into grabbing an aveirah instead. There is a fine line between zerizut — productive alacrity to do Hashem’s Will — and mindless multi-tasking to prevent you from thinking things through. “Now” may be the best time or it might not. Think before acting and avoid destructive haste.