Is It Right?
Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it politic? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular—but one must take it simply because it is right.
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “A Proper Sense of Priorities”
In Dr. King’s speech, he took a firm stand against the Vietnam War, explaining, “I’m not a consensus leader. I don’t determine what is right and wrong by… taking a Gallup poll of the majority opinion.” In Parashat Ki Tissa, Aaron unfortunately does exactly this. Caving to the pressures of the anxious Israelites awaiting Moses’s return, Aaron fashions the infamous golden calf for the Israelites to worship. Though Aaron must have known what was right, his pride or fear spurred him to do what was popular or safe. Regardless of his motivations, what is clear is that Aaron did not allow his conscience to ask what was right.
Dr. King’s lesson and Aaron’s failure serve as especially important reminders as we pursue justice in this era of social media and viral trends. Too often we determine which areas of justice to pursue based on an issue’s popularity. Though we may know we need to take a stand on certain human rights crises, we often fail to have the moral courage to act alone, choosing instead to do what is safe. May Dr. King’s words and Aaron’s failure inspire us and remind us to steel our priorities of justice, based not on the expectations of others, but rather on what we know to be right.