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The Golden Calf and Its Aftermath (Exodus 31: 18-34: 35)

For forty days and forty nights Moses is on Mount Sinai, where he receives instructions from YHWH (24:18). The text does not specify how much time has elapsed, but during this time, the people approach Aaron and ask him to make gods for them. Aaron instructs them to bring to him “the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters” (32:2). The text mentions only taking earrings from one’s wives and children. Yet in the following verse the people take off “their” earrings and bring them to Aaron (32:3). A Jewish midrash interprets the “people” in verse 3 as referring only to Israelite men. It contends that the women refused to give their earrings for idol worship. Stemming from this interpretation, women were rewarded for not participating in the construction of the golden calf. Thus it became a custom that women do not work during the holiday Rosh Chodesh (literally “Head of the Month”), a minor festival on the first day of each month, although men are permitted to work during the holiday…

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