Rabbi D. Zvi Aviner
IDOLATRY -1/ELOHIM (G-D)
Negative and Positive aspects
The First Commandment of Noah, the top of the list, is IDOLATRY. As we’ve mentioned, it was given to Adam and Eve in Eden among the primordial Six – IDOLATRY, ADULTERY, BLOODSHED, THEFT, INJUSTICE and BLASPHEMY. Later, after the Flood, Noah added his Seventh.
The IDOLATRY Commandment is usually seen as a prohibition, a ‘negative’ Commandment. Yet t it has a positive aspect: an obligation to Know the God of Israel and worship only Him. These are two sides of the same coin.
Moses too, in the Ten Commandments of Sinai, refers to the topic of IDOLATRY in two parts:
A positive Commandment: “I Am the Lord God…” which obligates Israel to Know God and Worship Him
A negative Commandments: “Thou shall not have other Gods over my Face…” which prohibits the idols
The difference between Gentiles and Israel
Tradition says that while Adam and Noah and their Children were ORDERED on the negative aspect, about the idols, they were only EXPECTED to Worship the True God.
This was changed by Moses speaking to Israel. As a Nation of Priests, Israel was ORDERED and WARNED on both the IDOLATRY’s negative and the positive sides.
What constitutes an idol?
Clearly it means more than worshipping wood and stone’s statues. This type of IDOLATRY was a transient error, a stage in the development of Man on Earth. The Commandment given by God is eternal, and every human generation would have its own idols pending on its cultural and technological stage.
A good definition for an idol is: anything that Man would adore and surrender his life to, instead of God. Hence a modern idol may be a political party, a drug, alcohol or even Art and Science if they dominate a person’s life.
IDOLATRY therefore is a battle of fascinations and adoration. Man is either fascinated by GOD and worships Him, or is fascinated by an idol and worships it. Moses expresses this idea in the way he presents IDOLATRY. Man is either attracted and worships God, as shown in the First of the Ten Commandments, or fall a prey to the idols as shown in the Second of the Ten Commandments. There is no option of neutrality, of worshipping no one.
In our class we’ll follow the Torah’s text and first get to know G-d, then we’ll define and discuss the idols to their kinds.
THE CREATOR: ELOHIM (G-d)
Moses’ basic question
Suppose Noah or Moses come to life in our time. Moses stands at a corner of a busy street, let’s say in NY city, and he addresses peoples passing by:
“Excuse me sir, or lady, do you know the Bible?”
Many would simply ignore him, taking him for a fool. Some however stop for a fun, answering Moses fprfa un, rewould say, giggling: “Of course! We know the Bible!” r
“If so,” Moses would say, “can you tell me Who Created the World, and for What Purpose?”
The people would lough. “Of course, God created the world, as it says that In the Beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth…”
But Moses would press on: “If so, for what purpose did He create the World?”
“Purpose?” Now they are puzzled. They would try different answers.
“He created it for good men.…”
“He created it for the Messiah…”
He created it for Israel…”
But Moses would shake his head in rejection. “Can you support your words by the versee?” He would tell each person.
They try, but they cannot. “Oh, the verse does not mention a purpose!” They tell Moses,
Tears run out of Moses’ eyes. The most basic, important message of his Five Books is gone, wiped out of Man’s mind. How could that happen?
The All-Mighty JUDGE
The problem is that in Hebrew, the first verse of the Torah (Bible) says
“In the Beginning, ELoHiM created the Heavens and the Earth!” (Genesis 1: 1)
where the English term G-d is written as ELoHiM. The difference? While G-d infers reverence and awe the term ELoHiM means the All-Mighty JUDGE.
Hence the message: In the Beginning, the All-Mighty JUDGE created the Heavens and the Earth for JUDGEMENT.
The purpose of CREATION, according to Moses, is that the entire Universe is made to withstand UDGMENT.
Note that there is nothing wrong in the term G-d. It infers awe and reverence. Yet it lacks the specific message that the Heavens and the Earth were created for JUDGMENT.
Note also that in Hebrew, ELoHiM refers to any judge, even a human judge. Thus Moses says “ELoHiM in your midst you should not curse, nor should you curse a prince in your nation…” (Exodus 22: 27.) Here the term “ELoHiM refers to a human judge,
Note also that to avoid mentioning the Holy Name, we will write ELoHiM as ELoKiM, or in short ELKM. (we follow the Hebrew custom to omit the vowels.)
The Essence Vs Attribute
The Name ELKM is only an Attribute, a descriptive term on of the CREATOR at a certain time. At CREATION, the CREATOR “set on the Throne of JUDGMENT.” On other occasions, He would “sit” on other Thrones or assume other functions and another Names and Attributes. The Essence of the CREATOR is beyond description and therefore has no Name. Even the term CREATOR is restrictive and cannot contain the Essence.
ELKM the BUILDER-JUDGE
The fact that ELKM is a JUDGE is shown in the story of Genesis. For Six Days He built the World Day by Day, as a Six Floors Building. Each Floor, each Day, sits on the previous Floor. At the end of each Day, sometimes in the middle of the Day, ELKM passes a JUDGMENT on the passing Day to see whether it is good or not. Like a Builder, He checked the poles and the ceiling to see whether it could support another Floor on top. A “good” verdict meant that the Day could support the next Floor and therefore could stay on. A “not good” verdict meant that the passing Day could not support the next one and therefor would be eliminated and discarded like a useless scaffold. Foor instance, the Dinosaurs were terminated because they could not support the next stage of the Evolution – mammals and Man.
Thus, during the Six Days, the term good or ‘not good’ expresses values seen in a BUILDER eyes. This applies also to Man. Since Man was created on the Sixth Day before the Sabbath, we are “good in ELKM eyes” if we support the next Day, the Sabbath. We are not good if we’ve failed to do so.
Annual Anniversary of CREATION
The ideas expressed above are at the core of Judaism. Once a year, at the Head of the Year (New Year, Rosh Hashanah Holiday) the CREATOR sits again on the Throne of JUDGMENT and JUDGES the entire World as He did in Genesis. On that awesome day, all creatures pass before His Throne as He examines them and decides their fate for the next year.
Here is some liturgy of the Prayer Book for Rosh Hashanah::
“Today is the birthday of the world,
Today you ascend again on your Throne of Judgment
when all the creatures of the world pass before your Throne
as You examine each and every one of them
and dictates their fate for the next year…”
The 13 attributes of Judgment
What are the ways ELKM the JUDGE executes His JUDGMENT? We need to know that, since we are under His Scrutiny, after all.
Looking at Nature, and the Bible, the Rabbis could form a set of values that characterize ELKM’s ways of JUDGING. Here are 13 of them, based on the Talmud and Prayer Books.
1. ELKM judges the world every Day.
As we have seen, Genesis Chapter One presents ELKM as a BUILDER nd a JUDGE who assesses each Day of CREATION. In fact, He continues assessing our days too. We are under His scrutiny all our lives, each day and each minute. Our deeds are inscribed in His Book for JUDGMENT. These Books are open every Rosh Hashanah for our annual trial.
2: ELKM pursues Absolute Justice and Truth
ELKM follows the Absolute Justice and Truth, paying attention to not other moral argument. He sees the fact and acts accordingly. Thus –
He is called “THE TRUTHFUL JUDGE.”(Dayan Emeth)
His nickname is “TRUTH,” Emeth.
His signature” is “TRUTH,” Emeth.
Wherever His Name appears in the text, see this as a stamp of the truth. Thus in the story of Genesis His Name appears 32 times in Six Days, inferring that the story is true. Indeed, we’ll compare it to the scientific story and see how remarkably the story is accurate and truthful.
3: ELKM pays “Measure for Measure” (Midah for Midah)
ELKM exercises retributions in precision, “measure for measure”. For instance, under Him, creatures are allowed to eat other creatures because they too would be eaten in turn. Creatures are allowed to inflict pains on others, since they too would suffer pains in return. This mode prevails in Nature and is seen everywhere.
4. ELoHiM’s judgment is harsh
EELKM JUDGEMENT is precise and harsh with NO MERCY. At CREATION, creatures He deemed “not good’ anymore were eliminated with no MERCY. He follows the rule of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”- as written by the “Finger of ELKM” (Exodus 32: 15.). It expresses the Absolute JUSTICE. The perpetrator should suffer the same agony he or she has inflicted on others. No monetary compensation would replace the Absolute JUSTICE.
it should be noted that other Attributes of the CREATOR, such as the MERCIFUL Attribute on whom we will soon learn, would think otherwise.
5: ELKM created the Six Days as a Dictator (“Awesomely Alone”)
During the Six Days of Genesis, ELHM created the world by Commands. Thus, He said “Let there be Light” and Light was there. He said “Let they Earth grow grass” and it did. He said “Let Luminaries hang in the sky” and they did. During these Six Days He ruled “Awesomely Alone, discussing or consulting no one, and no one dared to object Him or raise a brow.
This mode of ruling changed before making Adam. In order to leave Adam a room for descent, to have a Free Will, ELKM “stepped down” from His rule as a Dictator and spoke in plural, consulting other entities. Who could these entities be? We’ll learn about them in due course.
6: ELKM: the JUDGE- BUILDER
We’ve already mentioned that in the story of Genesis ELKM appears as a All-Mighty JUDGE and a BUILDER of a “Six Floors Building, Nature. Man lives on the Sixth Floor, moving towards the Sabbath.
This concept is crucial for understanding Adam’s trial and purpose of being. We are here to move CREATION towards the next Day, the Sabbath. ELKM the All-Mighty JUDGE assess us as a BUILDER. We are good or bad in His eyes, pending on our compliance with our purpose.
7. ELKM is WISE
Looking at Nature we can recognize ELKM’s Wisdom everywhere. The more we know about the Universe from Science, the more we appreciate the Wisdom inherent in it. At Adam creation, He endowed us with a mind capable of comprehending this Wisdom, FOR OUR USAGE, AND FOR OUR TRIAL.
The rabbis found a hint in the verse for this Devine Wisdom. The first verse says “In the Beginning, ELKM created the Heavens and the Earth.” The Hebrew word for “Beginning,”Be-reishit, can be read as “At the head of the events.” Thus He used His Head, or the Wisdom In His Head, to create the Heavens and the Earth.
8. ELoKiM is KIND and the ULTIMATE PROVIDER
Merciless and Harsh He is, yet Kind. He is the Ultimate Provider who provides every creature whatever it needs to survive and thrive. To Him, all eyes are lifted in prayer, Thus,
1.He gave the vegetation of the Third Day the talent to perform photo synthesis
2. He gave the fish born on the Fifth Day the gills and the fins to breath and swim,
3. He gave the birds born on the Fifth Day the wings to soar up and eyes to catch fish
4. He gave the crocodiles born on the Fifth Day the talents to lie like a log to catch birds
5. He gave the cattle born on the Sixth Day the talent to digest vegetation
6. He gave the beasts born on the Sixth Day the talent to prey on cattle
7. He gave the crawling creatures born on the Sixth Day the teeth to bite
8. He gave Adam born on the Sixth Day the mind needed to our survival and progress,
9. ELoHiM sits at the heart of Nature
ELKM is INSIDE everything. His Name appears 32 times in the Six Days of Genesis, where 32 is written “Lb” As it turns out, Lb means in Hebrew “heart. Hence ELKM is at the Heart of Nature, sustaining it as the heart sustains the body.
Miraculously, the numerical value of the word EeLoHiM is 86, the same as for ‘The Nature,’ Ha-teva. Hence, ELKM created Nature.
10. ELoKiM uses water as a whip
The second verse in Genesis says: The wind (spirit) of ELKM was hovering over the waters.” Implying that
- ELHM’s Throne of Judgment is hovering over waters
2. ELHM uses water as a whip to execute punishment, as it was in Noah’s Flood
- ELKM is enthroned over water, as we do on Rosh Hashanah,
11: ELKM sees everything
ELHM’s Justice penetrates everything like water
Nothing escapes His Scrutiny
12: ELHM’s justice is equal for all
He recognizes neither royalty not privileges.
His judgment is equal and even towards all, like water surface.
13 ELoHiM weights our merits on His Scale
He weights our deeds on His Scale: merits on one side, sins on the other.
The tilt of the scale determines whether we are either Righteous or Wicked
He does not judge our character, only our deeds.
Next we’ll ask, is the story of Genesis credible?