"When the people saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain…"—Exodus 32:1.

This week's portion describes one of the most misunderstood events in the Bible – the sin of the Golden Calf. Taken at face value, it is difficult to comprehend how the same people who had witnessed the miracles of the Exodus and the Revelation at Sinai could be led to worship a molten image. However, a deeper understanding of the episode reveals that the people did not intend to replace G‑d with the Golden Calf. What they were looking for was a substitute for Moses. As the verse states, the debacle began "when the people saw that Moses was late in coming down from the mountain…."

Moses, a human being of flesh and blood, represented the people's tangible connection to G‑d. As Moses related (Deut. 5:5), "I was standing between G‑d and you at the time [of the Revelation at Sinai]…." Although it was G‑d who redeemed the people from Egypt and gave them the Commandments at Sinai, it was Moses who served as the visible medium through which G‑d brought about these wonders. Without Moses to facilitate their relationship with G‑d, the people were in a quandary and sought to replace him.

They took it upon themselves to choose their own way of connecting to G‑dTheir mistake was that when they thought that they had lost their G‑dly appointed intermediary, they took it upon themselves to choose their own way of connecting to G‑d. Tradition relates various reasons why the likeness of a calf was selected for this purpose, but one explanation is that the people were interested in having a connection to G‑d that they could make into their own beast of burden. The image of a domesticated animal symbolized an intermediary with G‑d that could be manipulated and controlled. Moses made demands of the people; when necessary, he rebuked them. A docile calf would do no such thing.

One of the cornerstones of recovery is our willingness to be receptive to G‑d's message when He speaks to us. One of the ways that we seek knowledge of G‑d's will for us is by having a sponsor. While a sponsor is not a prophet nor is he or she infallible, a sponsor is, however, one of the best means we have for finding clarity on all aspects of our lives, great and small.

Having a sponsor whom we can manipulate or order around is hardly in the spirit of the basic humility requisite for recovery. Neither is it consistent with the acceptance that we do not always know what is best for us and that we need to always remain open, receptive and teachable.

There's a saying in recovery: "Call your sponsor before… not after." Having a sponsor means being willing to take direction, not give it. Whether our sponsor is always right is beside the point. What is relevant is that when we get out of our own heads long enough to truly listen to someone else, we may be able to hear the voice of G‑d.