[לעילוי נשמת אבי מורי הריני כפרת משכבו, ר ‘ שאול זעליג בן ר’ יהודה הכהן]
According to the Ramban, no less, it is a Mitzvah MiDeorayso to read the section from the Torah once a year. All compilers of the list of 613 Mitzvos, don’t agree with each other, and this is one of those (there are about 18) where the Ramban has a different Mitzvah to the Rambam. The Gemora says that the sin of the golden calf is important to be remembered because it teaches us that the jews as a whole, even when they have sinned in a terrible way, Avoda Zara (idol worship) have a formula for Tshuva which includes specific special words, which we use in our davening.
Everyone asks the obvious question, how could the Jews however go from such a lofty state after receiving the Torah and commit such a grievous sin. There are a myriad of answers, and as in all things Torah, some of them click more than others depending on the individual.
I was walking back from Elwood Shule today, feeling rather alone and lonely, because I always walked with my father; it used to take him 40 minutes because his knee was bone on bone, and he had heart issues. He did it, though, rain, hail or heat wave. As I walked, I was thinking about this question, and the following thought materialised.
It is not a big gap between praying directly to Hashem versus praying through an Idol. Man innately has a need for Mamoshus (some physical manifestation). The Jews had just seen and heard stuff which was “out of this world.” Does it mean that in using an Idol, they repudiated what they had seen and heard? I now don’t think so. I think they took a small, but very dangerous step in seeking some level of Mamoshus. It’s a grave sin, but perhaps it’s really a small step and not necessarily one which means they abandoned fundamentals. Perhaps that’s why some leaders (incorrectly) cast a blind eye. Probably, someone says this, and even more probably I may have even read it some time, but what do you think?
I know, for example, that many/most? Hindus believe there is still one God, yet they use these getchkes to “help them” focus. We aren’t meant to do that. It’s a grave sin, even if the intentions are honourable.