In the Golden Calf massacre roughly 3000 people were killed:

"וַיַּעֲשׂוּ בְנֵי־לֵוִי כִּדְבַר מֹשֶׁה וַיִּפֹּל מִן־הָעָם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא כִּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אַלְפֵי אִישׁ׃"
"The Levites did as Moses had bidden, and some three thousand of the people fell that day." Exodus.32.28

IIRC, all people donated jewelry and Aharon was the one to make the idol.

How were the executed 3000 Jews different in their behavior from the others? What exactly did they do with the Calf?

  • 1
    why would you call them victims? they were the perpetrators. Sep 12 at 13:37

See Rashi to 32:20, from Yoma 66b:

אִם יֵשׁ עֵדִים וְהַתְרָאָה בְּסַיִף – כְּמִשְׁפַּט אַנְשֵׁי עִיר הַנִּדַּחַת שֶׁהֵן מְרֻבִּין – עֵדִים בְּלֹא הַתְרָאָה בְּמַגֵּפָה, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיִּגֹּף ה' אֶת הָעָם, לֹא עֵדִים וְלֹא הַתְרָאָה בְּהִדְרוֹקָן

If there were witnesses and a warning [that they worshipped the Calf], they were executed by the sword, like the citizens of an Ir Hanidachas when they're the majority. If there were witnesses but no warning, they were punished by a plague, as it says (v. 35), "G-d sent a plague upon the people." If there were neither witnesses nor a warning, they were punished with dropsy [like a sotah, as Rashi says earlier in the comment].

This is actually one of two opinions in the Gemara there. The other is that the distinction was between those who performed an act of worship (such as slaughtering or burning an offering to it), hugging and kissing it, or just being happy about what was going on.

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