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 NOACH:

View Complete List

What Was Noach's Greatest Legacy?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

The Gift of Meat
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5761

Never Underestimate the Power of Prayer
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Ark D'triumph
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5758

Of Showers, Towers, and False Powers
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761

Language Barrier
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5760

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Now -A Hopeful Place
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

A Second Chance
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

Rabbi Frand on Parshas Noach
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5770

ArtScroll

Choosing Sides
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5771

Delight Amidst Devastation
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5762

Building Towers - For What?
- 5774

> Beshegam Hu Moshe?
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5767

New Stage, Old Actors
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762

People In Stone Houses Should not Cast Bricks
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

In Man's Diminished Image
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770



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 NOACH:

View Complete List

Maybe
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

The Sign of the Olive
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5767

Noah's Spiritual Leadership
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5771

> Hide the Shame
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Noach - A 'Standard' Tzaddik
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

Resilience is Key
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5767

ArtScroll

Too Perfect
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

The Roots of Evil
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5769

Procreation: Creating Worlds
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5766

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Nourishment for the Soul
Shlomo Katz - 5760

If it Hurts, Scream!
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

Taking a Hint
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

People In Stone Houses Should not Cast Bricks
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

No Fear, No Fair
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5764

Noach Did Not Become Wicked, He Just Became Plain
- 5768

The Rainbow Coalition
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5761



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