Rav Elazar Abuchatzeira was troubled as to why the חטא העגל was considered such a terrible sin.
The Midrash says that Satan showed the people what they thought was Moshe’s casket floating in the sky. In addition, the nation had only been freed for seven weeks. Wouldn’t it be natural to expect that they have doubts.
The Rav answered his own question by saying that much could be learned from Bilaam’s donkey. She couldn’t understand why he would strike her three times. After all, she had been his faithful donkey for many years. Rav Elazar said that not showing loyalty, is inexcusable. Everything Moshe promised that he would do, he fulfilled. Now after being only six hours late, would they turn to עבודה זרה.
We must never forget kindnesses done to us and become ingrates. A lack of loyalty to people who have been there for us, is inexcusable. This is why the חטא העגל was so severe, and we must learn its lessons.