The New Moon, Women, and the Golden Calf


The New Moon, Women, and the Golden Calf


Search our Archives:

Opinion & Society

An Explanation According to Mystical Thought

By A. Zalmanov

During the time of the Temple, the New Moon which heralded the new month was an important event; special sacrifices were brought to the altar. Today, the Temple has not yet been rebuilt, so instead we have special prayers in the synagogue on the New Moon. For the men this is enough, but not for the women, for it is the women who have taken the New Moon as their personal holiday. It is been a tradition throughout the centuries that women do not work on the New Moon.

The reason that women were given the New Moon as their personal holiday is because of what happened when the Jews left Egypt and went into the desert, and Moses went up to Mount Sinai for forty days and nights to receive the Ten Commandments. While he was on Mount Sinai, the Jews thought that he had died. The mixed masses of people who left Egypt with the Jews convinced the Jews to build the infamous idol, the "golden calf". The men asked the women to give them their golden jewelry, but the women refused. Because of their refusal to participate in making the golden calf, they were rewarded by having the holiday of the New Moon.

What is not clear here is what is the connection between the golden calf and the New Moon - that this should be the reward for their refusal to give their jewelry. If it were only because the women were 'stingy' and that was the reason that they would not give their jewelry, why should they be rewarded? Rather we understand from the reward that while the men accepted the golden calf as a replacement for Moses, the women did not! We must understand why did the women refuse to go along with this concept: that an idol could replace Moses, when the men accepted such a concept?

To understand this we must first know that the Egyptians believed in the power of the twelve "mazels", the constellations of the zodiac. Egypt worshipped the lamb; this was their holy animal. We see that they refused to eat with the Hebrews because the Hebrews ate the lamb. Prior to coming out of Egypt, the Jews were commanded to take a lamb that would become their Paschal Lamb for eating on the night of the Exodus.

The Jews on the other hand knew that there were powers in the various astrological signs, but that ultimately both the future and all power were in the hands of G-d. The Egyptians, like many of the gentiles at that time, believed that G-d had created the heavens and the earth, but left control in the hands of the constellations and planets, like a king who leaves the administration of the kingdom in the hands of his servants.

When Moses disappeared, the mixed multitudes of peoples who accompanied the Jews out of Egypt fell back to their old beliefs in the absolute power of the constellations. They reasoned that the astrological sign of Egypt was that of the lamb. But they saw also that the sign after the lamb was that of the ox. In addition, Joseph who was triumphant over Egypt, was compared to an ox, therefore they rationalized that it was not G-d's intervention that defeated the Egyptians, but rather a war between the signs of the zodiac – a war between the lamb and the ox, and the ox was victorious. Therefore, they rationalized; they would build an idol to the victorious ox – a calf.

The men succumbed to this pagan belief. But why was it that the women did not go along with such a rationalization like the men?

The reason is because there is a basic difference in the spiritual roots of a man and a woman. In mystical thought there is a concept of the masculine and the feminine which precedes the creation of the world. The masculine is the concept of giving whereas the feminine is the concept of a receiver. Now in terms of the holy sepherot through which G-d created the universe and all that is in, the lowest level is called "nuke" or "malchut"; it is the receiver of all of G-d's creative influence into the universe. It is in this sepherah that the universe exists. The level above "nuke" is called "zare anpin" or "zo" for short. Zo is the masculine part that feeds the G-dly influence into "nuke", it is higher up, but only because its main purpose is as a feeder to the lower world.

The essence of creation is based on the feeding of the G-dly influences to "malchut". Since this is the total purpose of creation, the root of "malchut" is from the highest levels in G-d that are imaginable. Therefore, although the men are above the women in this lower world, in the upper worlds, the root of the women is above that of the men. There exists a connection between the highest level and the lowest, since it is from the highest level that the lowest level became the desired goal of creation. The men may excel in logic, but the women are connected to their creator in a more intimate manner.

They are likened to the moon that has no light of its own but only receives from the sun. The men using the power of their logic reasoned out that it must have been a battle between the signs of the zodiac and therefore it was proper to build a "golden calf" as homage to the victorious zodiac sign The women instinctively knew that the signs of the zodiac do not have the power that G-d has, since their souls are totally connected to the highest level possible. They did not reason this out, but knew it since it touched on the source of their existence. Therefore they refused to go along with the logical understanding of the men.

For their steadfast belief in the ultimate power of G-d amidst the logical arguments of their men folk, they received the holiday of the New Moon on which they customarily refrain from work.


from the Febuary 2007 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

Please let us know if you see something unsavory on the Google Ads and we will have them removed. Email us with the offensive URL (