כי בשש משה. כְּתַרְגּוּמוֹ, לְשׁוֹן אִחוּר, וְכֵן בֹּשֵׁשׁ רִכְבּוֹ (שופטים ה'), וַיָּחִילוּ עַד בּוֹשׁ (שם ג'); כִּי כְּשֶׁעָלָה מֹשֶׁה לָהָר אָמַר לָהֶם לְסוֹף אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם אֲנִי בָא בְּתוֹךְ שֵׁשׁ שָׁעוֹת, כִּסְבוּרִים הֵם שֶׁאוֹתוֹ יוֹם שֶׁעָלָה מִן הַמִּנְיָן הוּא, וְהוּא אָמַר לָהֶם שְׁלֵמִים – אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם וְלֵילוֹ עִמּוֹ – וְיוֹם עֲלִיָּתוֹ אֵין לֵילוֹ עִמּוֹ, שֶׁהֲרֵי בְז' בְּסִיוָן עָלָה, נִמְצָא יוֹם אַרְבָּעִים בְּשִׁבְעָה עָשָׂר בְּתַמּוּז. בְּי"ו בָּא שָׂטָן וְעִרְבֵּב אֶת הָעוֹלָם, וְהֶרְאָה דְּמוּת חֹשֶׁךְ וַאֲפֵלָה וְעִרְבּוּבְיָה, לוֹמַר וַדַּאי מֵת מֹשֶׁה לְכָךְ בָּא עִרְבּוּבְיָא לָעוֹלָם, אָמַר לָהֶם מֵת מֹשֶׁה, שֶׁכְּבָר בָּאוּ שֵׁשׁ שָׁעוֹת וְלֹא בָּא וְכוּ' כִּדְאִיתָא בְמַסֶּכֶת שַׁבָּת (דף פ"ט); וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר לוֹמַר שֶׁלֹא טָעוּ אֶלָּא בְּיוֹם הַמְעֻנָּן בֵּין קֹדֶם חֲצוֹת בֵּין לְאַחַר חֲצוֹת, שֶׁהֲרֵי לֹא יָרַד מֹשֶׁה עַד יוֹם הַמָּחֳרָת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ מִמָּחֳרָת וַיַּעֲלוּ עֹלֹת:
כי בשש משה [AND WHEN THE PEOPLE SAW] THAT MOSES DELAYED LONG — Understand (בשש as the Targum does, as an expression denoting “lateness”.. Similar are: (Judges 5:28) “[Why is] his chariot so long (בשש) [in coming]?”; (Judges 3:25) “And they waited until it was late (עד בוש)”. For when Moses ascended the mountain he said to them (to the Israelites): at the end of a period of forty days (i. e. on the fortieth day) I shall return during the first six hours of the day (before noon). They thought that the day on which he ascended the mountain (the seventh of Sivan) was to be included in this number (thus — Sivan having 30 days — he was expected back before noon on the sixteenth of Tammuz). In fact, however, he had said to them “after forty days” meaning complete days — forty days, each day together with its night that precedes it — (as is the customary Jewish reckoning; cf. Genesis 1:5: ויהי ערב ויהי בקר). Now, as regards the day of this ascent, its night was not part of it that it can be reckoned as a complete day, for he ascended on the seventh of Sivan early in the morning (cf. Rashi on Exodus 19:3); it follows therefore that the fortieth day really fell on the seventeenth of Tammuz and not as the people had believed on the sixteenth. On the sixteenth of Tammuz Satan came and threw the world into confusion, giving it the appearance of darkness, gloom and disorder that people should say: “Surely Moses is dead, and that is why confusion has come into the world!” He said to them, “Yes, Moses is dead, for six hours (noon) has already come (בשש = בא שש) and he has not returned etc.” — as is related in Treatise Shabbat 89a (cf. Rashi and Tosafot there and Tosafot on Bava Kamma 82a ד"ה כדי). One cannot, however, say that they erred only on account of it being a cloudy day, their mistake consisting in not being able to distinguish between forenoon and afternoon, and that thus they were correct in their supposition that he was to return on the sixteenth of Tammuz; for this assumes that he really returned on the day when they made the calf, but that they were under the impression that noon was past — for, as a matter of fact, Moses did not come down until the following day (the day after they had made the calf), for it is said (v. 6) “And they rose up early in the morrow, and brought up burnt offerings”— and only after wards the Lord said to Moses (v. 7) “Go, go down; for thy people … have corrupted themselves”.
אשר ילכו לפנינו. אֱלוֹהוֹת הַרְבֵּה אִוּוּ לָהֶם (סנהדרין ס"ג):
אשר ילכו לפנינו [MAKE US GODS] WHICH SHALL GO BEFORE US — They wished to have many gods (the words אלהים is to be taken as plural since the verb ילכו is plural; cf. Sanhedrin 63a).
כי זה משה האיש. כְּמִין דְּמוּת מֹשֶׁה הֶרְאָה לָהֶם הַשָּׂטָן, שֶׁנּוֹשְׂאִים אוֹתוֹ בַּאֲוִיר רְקִיעַ הַשָּׁמָיִם (שבת פ"ט):
כי זה משה האיש FOR AS FOR THIS MOSES — This Moses implies that Satan showed them something that looked like Moses being carried on a bier in the air high above in the skies (cf. Shabbat 89a).
אשר העלנו מארץ מצרים. וְהָיָה מוֹרֶה לָנוּ דֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר נַעֲלֶה בָּהּ, עַתָּה צְרִיכִין אָנוּ לֶאֱלוֹהוֹת אֲשֶׁר יֵלְכוּ לְפָנֵינוּ:
אשר העלנו מארץ מצרים [THAT MAN] THAT BROUGHT US UP OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT, and who used to show us the way we had to go; now that he is dead we need gods which shall go before us.