We use the first two of Moses’ Ten Commandments as a platform for studying IDOLATRY.
The First, positive Commandment presents the Speaker’s Names and Attributes
The Second, negative Commandment presents the idols.
The First Commandment says:
1. “I Am (His Essence)
2. “The Lord (YHVH) your G-d (ELoKiM) (His Attributes)
3.” Who took you out of Egypt Land” (His deeds, kingship)
Here the Speaker expects us to KNOW Him and ADDRESS Him by these Names and Titles. It would be rude, if not a sin, to ignore or distort them or mispronounce them, or replace them by other Names.
Without knowing these names, you would not comprehend the Torah and its messages.
So who is ELoHiM?
We start by learning the Names in line 2. Who is ELKM? Who is YHVH? Moses does not elaborate on this in the Ten Commandments. He assumes that the reader is already familiar with these Names from the Book of Genesis. Indeed, in Genesis Chapter One Moses introduces the Names ELoKiM, Y-H-V-H, the CREATOR’S Kingship. Besides, it introduces also the concept of IDOLATRY and the comprehensive list of al possible idols! Thus Chapter One covers the First and Second Commandments of Sinai. .
So let’s go now to the Beginning of the Torah,and ask:
Suppose Moses comes to life and stands at a busy corner in one of our cities. In his ancient attire and long beard, he looks weird in the eyes of the passing by. Moses however approaches them asking:
“Excuse me sir, lady, are you familiar with the Bible?”
“Of course!” they say, giggling. They take him for a clown.
” If so, would you answer for me a most basic question: Who created the world, and for what purpose?”
Many shrug and walk their way. Others are intrigued by his question and say:
“Of course, G-d created the world, who else? Doesn’t it say In the Beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth…” (Genesis 1: 1)
“If so,” Moses keep asking, for what purpose did He create the world?”
“Purpose?” Now the people are puzzled. “Is there a purpose mentioned here?”
“Yes, the verse says it all,” Moses insists.
So the people keep tying some answers. They say “God created the world for the Messiah” or “for the prophets” or “for Israel” or “for good people.” But Moses doesn’t approve. “Is your answer supported by the the verse?” he asks. Tears run from his eyes. The most important message of his Torah has been wiped out and forgotten.
So according to Moses, who created the world and for what purpose?
The answer lies in the Hebrew version of the text that says:
Where ELoHiM is the Hebrew term for “The All Mighty JUDGE,” (Rashi, Exodus 20:1, explaining the names in the Ten Commandments.)
Oh, I hear you saying, you are too particular with your Hebrew! The issue is semantic! What could be the difference between the terms “G-d” and “ELHM?” But the difference is enormous. The English word G-d infers reverence and awe and is holy, but it lacks the specific message that Moses wished to convey. The Hebrew term ELHM proclaims that THE WORLD WAS CREATED BY THE ALL MIGHTY JUDGE TO WITHSTAND JUDGMENT.
Thus the Infinite CREATOR, who is above our concept, , elected to create the world while sitting on the “Throne of Judgment.”
In other words: The Infinite, nameless CREATOR may ‘wear’ different ‘hats’ on different occasions (Midrash). He has infinite number of Attributes, hats. At CREATION, Moses says, He wore the hat of the All Mighty JUDGE, and created the world to stand a JUDGMENT.
Note that the Hebrew ‘ELoHiM’ may refer to any judge, even a human judge. Like in the verse: “ELoHiM in your midst you should not curse, nor should you curse a prince in you nation…” (Exodus 22: 27.) Here the Torah forbids the cursing of “elohim,” a human judge, as well as a “prince in your nation.”
Whereas most philosophers reject any idea of a purpose for the world, the Torah says otherwise. Creation was made to stand a moral trial. You may say that modern Quantum Physics has found that this is true: that our Universe depends on Consciousness. But here was speak on a TRIAL.
The world on trial?
How then can the World be on trial? Does it possess a mind and a Free will?
One good answer is that every item in Nature, big or small, stands before the CREATOR in a trial within its realm. We humans may never comprehend the trial of the stone or the mosquito. After all, it is held between the CREATOR and His creatures.
We may say, however, that each item in Nature must comply with the Natural Laws, set up by the CREATOR, ELoHiM. Any deviation from those Laws would incur harsh retribution. A small change in the size of the atom or the charge of the electrons, and you’d get a different Universe. Our Universe is “elegant and precise,” and must abide by ELKM’s Laws. In that sense it stands on a trial.
But as we’ll later see there is another interpretation for the world’s trial. It depends on us. The Torah speaks about this Comprehensive Trial of the entire Universe as she speaks on the Sixth Day moving to the Sabbath. Yes, our fate is intertwined with the fate of the world. . .
Why creating the World as a Judge?
Tradition (Kabbala) explains that the Infinite CREATOR would have created our Universe with endless, unconditional Love and Compassion, without any trials and judgments.
But the CREATOR, in His Wisdom, elected to create our Universe to earn His favor and Love. Earning our relationship with Him is more dignified when we earn it rather than when He would shower it on us as a Charity.
Is there another Attribute?
Is this all what Moses is saying? We are here to earn our fate?
For that, look at the verse “at the BEGINNING, ELKM created the Heavens and Earth. It implies that LATER the CREATOR did add another Attribute to re-create the world. Indeed, this other Attribute is YHVH, the Attribute of MERCY. On that we’ll learn in due course as we follow the text in Chapter One. .
Since we are born by the Judge ELKM to stand a judgment,it comes out that our life comprises of an endless chain of trials and tribulations. Winning one would serve as a premise for the next trial. No escape. If you are unaware of it, you would forever wonder where is ELKM?
Being aware of our judgment can drastically change our lifestyle. A true story: A young (non Jewish) person who lived an alternative life style asked me one day “Doc, I know you teach Torah. Would you give me just one of her messages?”
To which I replied: “Do you know that purpose of CREATION?”
“No, what is it?” he asked.
So I said: “The first verse in Genesis says that the world was created by the JUDGE to stand Judgment.”
“For Judgment?” he wondered, “not for Love?” And he turned around and left.
But a few weeks later he approached me again. “Doc, your words have kept me awake, “he said, “for the first time I know now what to do”
He then left our town and moved to another metropolitan. People have told me that he has also changed his lifestyle. I wish hom the best.
4: We are not alone
The notion that the World stands on JUDGMENT sounds alarming, but it has a positive aspect. It implies that our deeds and thoughts are being watched; that WE ARE NOT ALONE.
Rosh Hashanah Holiday
People have asked me for a ‘proof’ about our interpretation. The best ‘proof’ I can offer comes from the Jewish New Year Holiday, the Rosh Hashanah. It is not only the first day of the new year, but also the Annual Anniversary of CREATION!
Rosh Hashanah is a solemn day dedicated for Universal Judgment. The entire Universe with all its creatures pass before the CREATOR ELKM as He sits again on His Throne of Judgment, as He had done at the Beginning. As they pass He examines each and every one and determines their fate for the next year. Can you have a better ‘proof’ for the notion that ELKM created the Heavens and Earth to stand a trial?
Here are some quotations from the Rosh Hashanah’s prayer book:
- “Today, is the day that the world was conceived…today you place all creatures on trial…”
- “Today, every creature passes before you as herd before its shepherd, while you count and remember each one and decree its judgment for the next year…”
What are ELKM’s ways of Judgment?
The rest of Genesis Chapter One tells us the answer. Here are some points:
1. He judges every Day
At the end fo each Day of CREATION (besides the second Day) ELKM said that it was good. Hence it is clear that ELKM has acted as a JUDGE. If the Day was good, He was pleased and allowed it ti enter the next Day. If the Day was not good in His eyes, He would have terminated it. .
2: ELoHiM pursues the Absolute Justice and Truth
ELoHiM by definition uses the Absolute Justice to issue a verdict.
He is therefore a TRUTHFUL JUDGE.
His nickname is TRUTH, ‘emeth.’
His signature is ‘TRUTH,’ emeth.
For instance: when a dear person passes away, we acknowledge the verdict by saying: “Blesses is the Truthful Judge.”
3: ELoHiM pays “Measure for Measure,” (Midah against Midah)
ELKM treats His creatures “measure for measure” in an absolute justice. We can see that in Nature, where creatures inflict pains on other creatures, only to suffer pains themselves. Creatures eat, only to be eaten. No escape.
Years ago I watched with my children a National Geographic video, where a small snake came out crawling along a river’s shore, looking for breakfast. Indeed, as the snake moved, it captured and swallowed numerous tiny frogs. You could still discern their bodies twisting inside the snake’s belly. The snake continued to swallow its victims with insatiable apatite.
But then the unsuspecting snake passed by a huge frog that had been patiently waiting for it. With unbelievable fast movement, the frog acted and cut off the snake’s head. Then it swallowed the snake, with all the little frogs still twisting in the snake’s belly. Seeing this I jumpedup and down with my children shouting: “Yes! ELoHiM pays back measure for measure!”
Note that vegetarians are included in this Universal judgment. Who can value the life of a vegetable against the life of an animal? Only the CREATOR can do this!
4. ELoHiM’s judgment is harsh
ELoHiM, by definition, rules harshly by the iron fist with no MERCY. Thing He deems ‘not good’ are eliminated with no compassion.
For example: ELKM says “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It sounds harsh. But one should pay attention to the SPEAKER. The stone Tablet of Sinai were written by “the fingers of ELoHiM” (Exodus 32: 15.) They represent therefore the ABSOLUTE JUSTICE.
The Oral Torah (we’ll lean about her) says otherwise, that the perpetrator would pay monetary compensation only. The Oral Torah usually gives the aspect of the a Another Attribute of Mercy, YHVH, who overrides everything. .
5: ELKM created the Six Days as a Tyrant
Before making Adam, during the Six Days of CREATION, ELHM created by giving orders, as a tyrant. He commanded, and things happened with no discussion or rejection.
It was only before the making of Adam that ELKM changed His way. Instead of issuing another command, like “Let it be an Adam,” He spoke in plural, saying “Let Us Make an Adam”
In other words: before making Adam, ELKM ‘Descended’ from His High Pedestal as an Absolute JUDGE,a Tyrant, and acted as a King Who Consuls, a ‘democratic’ ruler. We’ll learn the implications of that change.
6: ELoHiM is like a builder
During the Six Days of CREATION, ELoHiM acted like a Builder of a Six Floors Building. Each Day of CREATION consisted a Floor. At the end of each Day, each Floor, the Builder ELKM checked the Floor He had just built to see whether or not it was ‘good’ in His eyes.
If the Floor was deemed ‘good’ the Builder placed another Floor, or another Day on top. If it was deemed ‘not good’ ELHM the Builder eliminated it to nothingness .
This checking took place Day by Day . On the Second Day He did not check the Day but at the Third Day He checked it twice. He also checked it twice on the Sixth Day. We’ll learn to meaning of those checking.
7. ELoHiM is Wise
The Wisdom by which the Universe is built is revealed to us when we study Nature. The Kabbalah finds a hint for that in the first verse that says “In the Beginning, ELKM created the Heavens and the Earth.” The Hebrew word for Beginning, Be-reishit can be read as “In the Rosh,” or “In the Head”. In English too you would say “In the head of the events.” Thus, says Kabbalah, ELKM created the Universe by His Head, or by the Wisdom and Science in His Head.
8. ELoHiM is precise
ELoHiM’s JUDGMENT is precise, measure for measure. He created the World with precision. His Natural Laws are exact. Our Universe, modern physics says, is ‘elegant and precise.’
9. ELoKiM is the Ultimate Provider. He is KIND.
Merciless and Harsh as He is, yet He is Kind. He is the Ultimate Provider who takes care of all His creatures and provides them with the necessary talents to thrive in their habitats. Thus,
1. He gave the vegetation 0f the Third Day the talent to photo synthesize Sunlight
2. He gave the fish of the Fifth Day gills to breath and fins to float and swim in the water and digestive system to live on vegetation
3. He gave the birds of the Fifth Day, wings to soar up into the sky and catch fish
4. He gave the crocodiles of the Fifth Day the talents to escape the water into dry inland, and teeth to catch the birds
5. He gave the cattle of the Sixth Day the talent to digest vegetation
6. He gave the beasts of the Sixth Day he talent to prey on the cattle
7. He gave the crawling creatures of the Sixth Day the talent and tools to bite and swallow other creatures
8. He gave Adam of the Sixth Day the tools and talents to thrive in our habitat, Earth. In His Kindness He also tells Adam how to win our Judgment.
10. ELoHiM ‘fills’ the ‘heart’ of Nature
Where is ELKM? Is He above, or below?
In the miraculous Chapter One of Genesis, ELHM’s Name appears 32 times in the six Days, denser fashion than in all other chapter of the Torah.
(He appears 3 more times in the section of the Sabbath, making it a total of 35 times, which is the number of prototypes of forbidden works on the Sabbath.)
Since the number 32 is written in Hebrew as Lb (where ‘a’ is 1, ‘b’ is 2, ‘c’ is 3 and ‘L’ is 30) where ‘Lb’ is ‘heart,’ it comes out that ELoHiM dwells at the heart of Nature, sustaining it as the heart sustains the body. He is INSIDE everything; and nothing exists without Him. There is NO “empty space” without Him, as some writers have suggested, to explain the evil in nature. In Kabbalah, ELHM is called “The One Who Fills the World.”
A hint: the numerical value of the word ‘ELoHiM,’ is 86.
Miraculously, the numerical value of ‘The Nature,’ Ha-teva is also 86.
In contrast, the Attribute of MERCY (YHVH) on whom we are about to learn, is called: “One Who Surrounds the world”.
11. ELoKiM’s judgment is equal to all, penetrating everything
It is said: “And the wind (spirit?) of ELoHiM was hovering over the waters…” (Genesis 1:2.) The verse implies that
1. ELHM’s Throne of Judgment is hovering over waters (A basic theme of Rosh Hashanah)
2. ELHM uses Water as a whip, as in Noah’s Flood
3.ELHM’s Justice penetrates everything, like water.
4. ELHM’s justice is even and equal to all, like water’s surface. He recognizes no royalty and no privileges.
12 ELoHiM weights our merits on His Scale
ELHM judges us by weighting our deeds on His scale:
Our merits are placed on one side, our sins on the other.
The tilt of our scale determines our fate for the next year.
13: Righteousness and wickedness
When the scale tilts in our favor, we are RIGHTEOUS in His eyes.
When the scale tilts against us, we are SINNERS or WICKED in His eyes.
Hence the terms “righteous” and “wicked” (Tzadik and Rasha) which express our verdict in ELKM’s court, rather than our character (Maimonides) (YHVH in contrast assesses us emotionally.)
’ELoKiM‘ (ELKM) instead of ELoHiM
ELoHiM is a Holy Name, hence we will henceforth follow tradition and write and call it ELoKiM (in short ELKM without vowels.)
I hear your question: Where is His Mercy? To answer that, we need to continue reading Genesis Chapter One.
Questions posted by Rabbi Z Aviner:
(1) The world e was created by (a) the Attribute of Judgment (b) by ELoHiM (c) by the All Mighty JUIDGE (d) all the above
(2) The title ELoHiM means (a) Merciful (b) King (c) JUDGE (d) Compassionate
(3) ELoHiM is (a) unkind (b) aloof (c) harsh judge (d) acts in vengeance
(4) ELoHiM judges by (a) absolute mercy (b) vengeance (c) without justice (d) measure for measure
(5) The lion kills the lamb because (a) ELoKiM does not like the lamb (b) the lion prevails forever (c) the lion would be eaten too (d) the lion is powerful and godly
(6) The world was created for (a) the messiah (b) for Israel (c) for the prophets (d) for judgment
(7) By stating that “the spirit of ELoHiM hovers over waters” the Torah infers that (a) his judgment is even to all, like water’s surface (b) his judgment penetrates everything like water (c) he uses water to execute His punishment, like in Noah’s Flood (d) all the above
(8) The New Year Holiday, Rosh Hashanah, is a day of (a) getting drunk (b) partying (c) kissing your neighbor’s wives (d) universal judgment
(9) ELoKiM is (a) precise (b) just (c) truthful (d) all the above
(10)ELoKiM sits (a) above Nature (b) under the earth (c) inside our hearts only (d) at the core, or the ‘heart’ of CREATION
Read also: “Genesis Vs. Science, Can They Match?” By Zvi Aviner, at www.smashwords.com