It seems peculiar that those involved in the sin of the Golden-Calf did not choose Aharon as the leader to replace Moshe. Indeed, if Aharon was not acceptable to them, how did they have the audacity to ask him to find another leader? Horav Efraim Tzemel Z”l responds to this question with a simple, but insightful, answer. They desired a leader who was more politically oriented, capable of making prudent decisions which affected the community, while simultaneously maintaining his stature as a statesman and diplomat. Aharon was viewed by them as a great scholar embodying an aura of holiness that personified the Kehuna Gedola. Moshe was the paradigm of virtue, holiness, and scholarship. He was an individual of unique fiber, able to deal with Pharaoh and assume the mantle of leadership over Am Yisroel. In their opinion, Moshe was an unusual personality. A “man of G-d,” whose life is completely devoted to Torah study and scholarship, should not be responsible for making “mundane” decisions regarding the community.
This was the source of the Golden-Calf. Its origins were in the people’s inability to accept Torah and its scholars as the only source of guidance for every area of endeavor. Such misguided beliefs produce idol worship. One who feels that a “Gadol” has no sense of earthly matters is in reality saying that Torah does not encompass every aspect of life. This is the beginning of apostasy. A person who is devoted to Torah possesses a unique understanding of issues, viewed from the pure vantage point of total immersion in Torah. The opinions of a Torah personality express “Daas Torah;” Torah minds think Torah thoughts and make Torah decisions untainted by political motives and personal vested interests. The Torah is not merely a code of religious law; it is primarily the word of Hashem, the greatest source of intrinsic value.