Idolatry: An Inexact Lesson

So after making 10 Commandment tablets out of paper bags last week (we crumpled them up to make them look old, then I handed out strips of each commandment and challenged the kinders to glue them on in numerical order ā€” turns out, glue sticks are enough of a challenge), we finally got to the Golden Calf shenanigans in yesterday’s Shalom School lesson.

(Have I ever shared how much I love Torah Aura’s Child’s Garden of Torah? It’s perfect for kindergarteners, and the student pack comes with worksheets and the best possible teaching aid ever: STICKERS.)

You already know that Moses goes up Mount Sinai to study some Torah from the Source for 40 days and nights, but the freed Israelites got impatient and had Moses’ bro Aaron melt down their baubles and make something shiny they could worship. When Moses came down, he saw that the people he’d gone through all this trouble to save were not following the very simple directions he’d left, and he was pissed.

In fact, I told my charges, he was so mad he broke the tablets he’d spent all that time scraping out so that these nudniks would have something to reference the next time they forgot the basic rules of the game. “Have you ever been so mad that you broke something you loved?” I asked my Shalom Schoolers.

A few solemn nods.

“I once broke my sister’s favorite pencil because she wouldn’t let me use it,” confessed one boy with a mournful look.

“I cut off my Barbie’s hair because she was being bad,” said a little girl in a pink “High School Musical” t-shirt. “But it was an accident.”

Another hand. “Um, I never did anything like that but one time my daddy was so mad at the basketball game on the t.v. he threw the remote control at the wall and it split into a million pieces and we had to get a new one and now my mommy can’t figure out how it works.”

“Okay,” I said. “So we all make mistakes, especially when we’re angry or scared. The families of Israel made a gigantic mistake dancing around the cow statue. Moses broke the tablets. You broke something that belonged to your sister, you scalped your Barbie. Your dad smashed the remote control. Eventually, everyone was forgiven, right?”

Shrugs all around. “Well, Mommy still has to make Daddy set the DVR, but yeah, I guess.”

“So when we make a mistake, or we don’t follow the first ten commandments, let alone the ā€” wait, how many commandments?”

“SIX HUNDRED AND THIRTEEN!” my smarty Jewish kids shouted.

“Right! So that’s a lot to remember, and when we don’t get it exactly right or break something, or act in a bad way, we can be forgiven. As long as we’re truly, deeply sorry, we can grow into better people. But at the same time, you need to know how to act and to use your common sense,” I explained, ’cause I really don’t need any parents calling and asking me why their child said I told them they’d be forgiven for poking holes in the sofa cushions with a pair of chopsticks because it wasn’t expressly forbidden in the Torah.

“So God forgave the people for worshiping the idol, and he let Moses come back and make another copy of the Ten Commandments. But from then on, everyone was expected to keep it together. Got it?”

More nods, and I felt like we’d really accomplished some Jewish learning here today. We moved onto snack, a rousing rendition of the “Dovid Melech Yisrael” hand jive, and to illustrate the “hand of God,” this super cool hamsa project. Unfortunately, it required some basic adhesive skills and therefore turned out stickier than I imagined, but it was nothing an entire packet of Tough N’ Tender cleaning wipes couldn’t handle.

During pick-up, I overheard a parent ask their child the requisite “So, what did you learn today?” I turned my ear towards the sweet little voice and heard: “Something about a golden cow and ‘American Idol.’ And we’re supposed to worship these pretty hands!”

I think next week we’ll just start with how to use a glue stick.

*Photo via’s “Top Ten Lame Golden Calf Pickup Lines.”

5 thoughts on “Idolatry: An Inexact Lesson

  1. oh great, teaching them how to fake archeological evidence šŸ˜‰
    seriously, what’s with our ancient ancestors cow fetish? along with the GC, there’s also
    Rivka = heifer … and she was supposedly super gorgeous, as were all the imahot to be sure

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