Several verses emphasize and repeat that the Israelites were to remove their “edye” as God contemplates the people’s fate in response to the sin of the Golden Calf. It is not clear what an “edye” refers to; the term is often translated as “ornament” or “jewelry,” but our oldest translation (into Aramaic, called the Targum) renders it as “weapons.” Evidently, the people were obliged to face the wrath of the Almighty bereft of any means of personal defense. This seems a little like demanding that people facing a tsunami remove their galoshes- wouldn’t matter much, one way or the other, so what’s the point?
The Israelite error of the Golden Calf occurs while Moses is learning Torah with God on Mt. Sinai. The verse there says the people saw that Moses “delayed” returning to them. This delay prompted anxiety over the fate of their leader. This sense of insecurity led to the placebo of the Golden Calf. Perhaps this is where the impulse to idolatry essentially comes from – the human need to feel in control and secure. A false sense of security is not merely a distraction; it is akin to placing faith in an idol.
The text tells us the the people courageously removed their “edyes.” It never tells us that they ever put them back on. The human condition is to learn to accept uncertainty.
Rabbi Mitch Levine