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 EMOR AND THE OMER:

View Complete List

Love Thy Enemy
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5765

One Who Curses The Name of G-d is Not An Atheist
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773

When It Really Counts
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5764

Looking for a Chavrusah?

A Talmid Chacham of Chilul Hashem
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

Count Up
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5766

Give Me Liberty
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5767

ArtScroll

Do You Know Your Own Power
Shlomo Katz - 5763

“Letter to my Son Akiva”
Jon Erlbaum - 5773

My Responsibility in MY World
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5757

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

In a World - Minus Peace
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

Making Light of The Kohanim
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5767

Great Strength
Rabbi Moshe Peretz Gilden - 5763

> Priestly Duties
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772

Pure Words
Shlomo Katz - 5770

Have No Regrets
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

Reality of the Big Picture
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 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 EMOR AND THE OMER:

View Complete List

Over the Top
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

Forty-Nine Days, Eleven Hours
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5769

Priestly Duties
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Parashah That Has Everything
Shlomo Katz - 5766

The Role of the Priests
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772

Just Follow the Leader
Rabbi Label Lam - 5771

Looking for a Chavrusah?

A Count of Anticipation
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Prisms of Light - Reflections From a Shattered Glass
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

Forced to Be Holy
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

> “Letter to my Son Akiva” (born 10 years ago, on Erev LAG B’OMER)
Jon Erlbaum - 5771

In a World - Minus Peace
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

Lag B'Omer
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5755

ArtScroll

Worthy of the Title “Holy”
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768

Eighth Parshah, And Counting
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761

Teaching Fear of Heaven by Example
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5758

The Omer and Holiness
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774



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