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 PINCHAS AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

What Are We Missing On Tisha B'Av?
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

Kinah for Tisha BAv Revised
Rabbi Label Lam - 5774

Of Hearts and Minds
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

> See, Hear, Observe, and Emulate
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5757

The Red Heifer Reality
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

The Darkest Corner
Rabbi Label Lam - 5763

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Tempered Blessing
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765

Unbridled Love
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

Because I Want To
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

ArtScroll

When Moshiach Comes
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

Truly Humane
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

No Compromising with the Yetzer Hara!
Shlomo Katz - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Personal Judge
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

Temperament of a Kohen
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Vov of Connection-Vov of Division
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

Carrying G-d's Parcels
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762



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 PINCHAS AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Still Waters Run Deep
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

How We Suffer
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

A Bunch of Mad Men
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5767

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

For Whose Sake?
Shlomo Katz - 5771

Peace Pursued
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

Time, Effort and Money
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5759

> Tzelafchad's Daughters Were Motivated By The Land, Not The Money
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765

9th of Av: Reasons for Fasting - Part 1
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

The Red Heifer Reality
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

ArtScroll

Fix the World
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Seeing the Symphony
Rabbi Label Lam - 5774

Too Much Righteousness
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5761

Looking for a Chavrusah?

G-d's Partner
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5762

The Right Thing
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

9th of Av: Reasons for Fasting - Part 2
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Of Zealots and Eretz Yisroel
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5765



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