Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 

Idolatry

It doesn't take much intelligence to understand why G-d forbade the worship of idols (or of any other individual or force in nature). For one thing, they are silly pieces of wood and metal, stars, mountains, trees, or human kings. They don't have any supernatural powers that will help anyway. Since the Torah forbade stupidity, keeping away from idolatry will keep you away from a pretty concentrated form of stupidity. For another thing, idolatry is a distraction from our real purpose in life, which is to serve G-d.

What should bother us, though, is how could anyone fall for such stuff in the first place? How could great segments of the world's population and a good part of the Jewish nation (from time to time) take up just this stupidity of idolatry?

In order to avoid this difficult issue we'll discuss something else. Maybe by the time we're finished the original question will be forgotten... or maybe this will lead us to the answer. G-d wants all of His creations to do nothing more and nothing less than His will. G-d created human beings so they can do his will, but He added a twist. They must do it out of their own free choice. Whatever G-d gets out of having us serve him, He gets more out of it if it's voluntary, rather than robotic.

If G-d were to speak to you today in a booming voice, with thunder and lightning and a clear, heart-stopping vision of the place that awaits sinners, you'd probably do what He said, right? But would it have been out of free will? Not really. You would more or less have been bullied into serving Him just as if someone were holding a gun to your head and threaten to use it unless...

If everything were as clear and immediate to us as that hypothetical vision, all of our Mitzvah (commandments) observance would be robotic and automatic. That would not meet G-d's "needs." In order for the world to accomplish its purpose, the truth has to be a bit foggy, there has to be at least the appearance of alternatives.

That brings us back to idolatry. If there was nothing in the world to serve besides G-d, then it wouldn't be much of a challenge. Therefore, G-d made it a fair fight (in effect gaving us free choice) by making idolatry attractive. G-d gave it at least the illusion of power. There really might have been some supernatural power to idolatry - it really might have brought success and wealth and other good things. In a word: it idalotry look stupid and it might not even have been stupid. But it was, nevertheless, wrong.

Perhaps idolatry isn't the challenge to belief today as it once was, but the free will to decide between right and wrong is still very present and very powerful.


Rabbi Boruch Clinton teaches at the Ottawa Torah Institute yeshiva high school and Machon Sarah high school for girls (both in Ottawa, Canada). You may reach him with comments and questions at bclinton@torah.org.

You can now read some of Rabbi Clinton's essays on Torah life at http://www.ncf.ca/~es625/essays

You can also buy his collection of essays on the Book of Shmuel (Samuel) in printed form at www.lulu.com/marbitzmedia

Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Boruch Clinton and Project Genesis, Inc.

 

ARTICLES ON BESHALACH AND TU BESHVAT:

View Complete List

Planting Our Song
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5760

Turning the Gears
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5757

Like a GPS
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Moshe Addressing Yosef’s Request
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5772

The Heart of the Matter
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5759

Healing the Fracture
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

ArtScroll

Planting the Seeds of Eternity
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

Clear Intructions
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5759

Better to Be the Pursued Than the Pursuer
Shlomo Katz - 5760

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Perfect Script Writer
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

Tu BeShevat
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

A Request
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5768

> It's Raining Bread!
Shlomo Katz - 5759

Illogical Treatment May Yield Bonanza For The Nation That is
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5770

An Investment In Our Future
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

Wise Water
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Boruch Clinton and Project Genesis, Inc.
 

ARTICLES ON BESHALACH AND TU BESHVAT:

View Complete List

Tu BeShevat
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

Anatomy of a Sin
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5768

The Importance of Trees
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5759

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Heaven-Sent
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762

Input...Output
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5757

Wise Water
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5760

> Everyone Needs Attention
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5763

Sweet' Can Emerge From 'Bitter
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

The Spiritual Effect of Tasting the Manna
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772

ArtScroll

“What” is Beyond Our Realm!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5767

Walls of Water
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765

Insight Into An Age Old Dilemma
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Miraculous Nature
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5763

Israel's Secret Weapon
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5763

Never Forget
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

Ultimate Victory is Promised
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information