Parshat Ki Tisa: A Golden Calf and a Silver Lining

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Golden Calf
21 Feb 2008
Arts & Media

They came with all that’s gold;

But not all that’s gold glitters.

With rings of fire they came –

Earrings, bickerings, sufferings –

And burnt it all alive.


A golden heart once pure,

Untouched by the smith’s tongs –

Now a cold slab of metal

Clanking against the steel ribcage

Of an unforgiving coffin.


Complete it was; now broken.

Once delicate porcelain;

Now a million sharp razors

Ripping into flesh like snide remarks.


Golden heart to golden calf – don’t even say it.

Shh, bite your golden tongue.

And when one (thing) breaks another follows;


Such is the nature of the golden beast:

Thrown from the shepherds hands a dream

Shatters against the mountain;

A vow broken; a marriage void:

Earth no longer welcome in Heaven’s home;

Heaven no longer seen at Earth’s side.


But the wise say nothing is as complete as a broken heart

And the cracks in the wall are just so that the light can get in.

Clichés indeed. Clichés are true. Otherwise they’d be lies.


They came with all that’s gold;

But not all that’s gold came with them.

Some gold is beyond jewelry; even hearts.

Some gold is much deeper than a mine…

Or even a yours.


Some gold is just plain silver.


Like a type of flaming coin it is a half of a whole.

A coined – flaming – phrase.

We give our half; He gives His.

He makes us whole; we make Him whole.

We are two halves of one shekel –

Only together complete.


The rich shall not give more

And the poor shall not give less

Than the half shekel


In this relationship it doesn’t matter

What your price may be. You are priceless.

All that’s needed here is your soul, like a

Type of flaming coin, to burn with passion,

To burn and forge any crack in any heart.


We make mistakes but mistakes don’t make us.

We may break things, even ourselves, but only so

That we can become more complete.


For every Golden Calf there’s a sterling silver lining –

About a half shekel’s worth.


Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.