Aharon said unto them; take off the golden earrings which are in
your wives’ ears…” (Shemot 32:2). Rashi explains that Aharon had in mind to postpone making the Golden Calf, since he knew that women would not easily part with their jewelry. He hoped that Moshe would arrive in the meantime.
Women Refused to Make the Golden Calf
Since the women did not want to donate their jewelry to the Golden Calf, the men took off their own golden earrings instead. This is understood from the following verse: “All the people pulled off the golden pendants that were in their ears, and brought them to Aharon” (Shemot 32:3). The word ozneihem (their ears) is written in the masculine form suggesting the fact that the men pulled off their own earrings, without any reference to the pendants belonging to the women. Minchah Belulah is of the opinion that the men pulled off their wives’ earrings by force. In either case, the women refused to participate in making the Golden Calf.
To Be Renewed Like the Moon
When the wives refused to hand over earrings to their husbands, they told them, “We will not listen to you and make a disgusting thing, which has no power.” For this, G-d rewarded them in this world by giving them the primary responsibility to celebrate Rosh Chodesh (the
Women Festival of the New Moon) over the men. Hashem also gave them the reward in the World to Come, to be renewed like the moon (Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer 44). The Tur explains why celebrating Rosh Chodesh was a suitable reward for the women for not participating in the Golden Calf. The three pilgrim festivals correspond to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya’acov, whereas, Rosh Chodesh corresponded to the twelve tribes. When the tribes sinned by making the Golden Calf, Rosh Chodesh was taken away from them and given to their wives. There are different opinions as to the extent that women should refrain from work to celebrate Rosh Chodesh, and as to whether this is an optional custom or a halachic obligation. The Beur Halachah concludes that it is the general consensus that women must refrain from some kind of work, in particular heavy work, in order to make the day special and different.