The Jews who emerged from Egypt in the miracle at the Red Sea, and then who were given the Torah at Sinai, personally witnessed the presence of God -- or so I thought.

How can it be that the same people, shortly afterward, rebelled or openly complained against God multiple times, for example with the manna and with the Golden Calf?

It just doesn't make sense to me that you can witness absolute infinite power and then risk being obliterated by it by doing something said power said specifically not to do.

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    Good question....I'll work on an answer, but see almost any one of the meforshim on the Eigel....all sorts of interesting explanations are given.
    – MTL
    Dec 15, 2014 at 21:40
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    Matan torah was not (IIRC) "some decades" after Yam Suf.
    – rosends
    Dec 16, 2014 at 0:06
  • Imray, I've made some edits to your question, mainly to take out the part about it being the next generation. From your second paragraph I don't think that's what you meant to say, and as others noted, matan torah was weeks, not decades, after the exodus. Dec 16, 2014 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


Many commentaries go case-by-case through each of the "terrible mistakes" of the Jews in the desert and explain how they are not as terrible as they seem.

For example, by the sin of the Golden Calf, the Ramban explains (32:1) that they did not want to create an idol to serve, but rather to appoint a new leader, a Moshe replacement, to lead them now that they thought Moshe was gone. He provides several points of textual support. The Ramban also writes (to 32:7) that there was an element of the sin which we can never really know or understand.

By every such sin, you will find a commentary who explains that there was much more going on than it seems at first glance, and occasionally you will even find that there were lofty motivations that were misguided.


It just doesn't make sense to me that you can witness absolute infinite power and then risk being obliterated by it by doing something said power said specifically not to.

Obvious, even spectacular truth is not so compelling to the unrighteous.

Psalm 15:1-2 A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart.

Our connection to G-d is by faith (trust) and we receive truth.

Psalm 91:4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Those without this connection are at peril.

Proverbs 4:19 The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.

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    I'm confused... Dec 16, 2014 at 19:42
  • There are two types of people, those who are close to G-d because they are righteous and those who are distant from G-d because they are not righteous. Those who are close can understand truth and see in the miracles the hand of a mighty G-d. Those who are distant cannot discern truth and see in the miracles something annoying to them.
    – timf
    Dec 16, 2014 at 20:17
  • The Malbim regards Isaiah 29:13: explains that they practiced things out of habit, not belief, without understanding or intent and that they said things but their hearts were not in it from the get go. It could be that they acted out of habit in the case with the golden calf also; i.e. they acted based on habitual behaviour.
    – Levi
    Feb 14, 2019 at 5:45

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