Rabbi D. Zvi Aviner
IDOLATRY -1/ Where stated In Moses’ Ten Commandments?/
LAST class we discussed Noah’s Seven Commandments as a group.Today we start examining them one by one, according to their list
We begin our journey with Noah’s First Commandment – IDOLATRY.
“IDOLATRY?” I hear you wondering, “who cares about it nowadays? Isn’t IDOLATRY passe, an issue of the past?”
The answer is that, thank goodness, the primitive idols of Mankind are gone, and we no longer bow to celestial bodies or to Man-made, stone and wood statues. Yet, we do face even today many “internal idols” that are products of our mind and soul. We still err in identifying correctly the Go-d of the Bible, we still bow to personal and social idols, and we tend to deny the existence of G-d. Hence, the IDOLATRY Commandment is still very relevant to our modern life.
Negative and Positive aspects
As we’ve learned, Noah’s first Commandment, IDOLATRY, was actually given to Adam and Eve in Eden , among the “primordial Six” – IDOLATRY, ADULTERY, BLOODSHED, THEFT, INJUSTICE and BLASPHEMY. The Seventh one of Noah, was ADDED to Noah on Earth, after the Flood.
Since Eden is the cradle of Mankind, where Adam and his wife lived before living on real Earth, Adam’s Six are “engraved” in our psyche. We are all born with the desire to seek G-d and worship Him. Only that we might err in identifying G-d correctly. An idolater, therefore, is “at error” rather than a sinner (said Rabbi Kook, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel) unless he/she err on purpose.
How can we identify the G-d of Israel – of the Bible?
The answer is: Form the First of the Ten Commandments of Moses. There, the Speaker, G-d, identifies how EXACTLY we should refer to Him and think about him.
Lets’ see the First two of Moses’ Ten Commandments.
Moses’ first two Commandments of Sinai
The Ten Commandments of Moses were given to Israel on Mount Sinai.
Are they pertinent also to all Mankind, i.e. to Noahides? Are they a “Love Letter” written by God to Israel, that only Israel should open and read?
The answer is no. As we’ve learned, the Talmud says that all the Commandments given to Noah and repeated by Moses to Israel, do apply to both – Noahides and Israel.
Hence, Moses’ words about IDOLATRY should be shared by all Mankind.
There are some differences ,though. Israel is treated more stringently than the nations, since Israel should set up an example for all M
Here are the first two of Moses’ Ten Commandments, comprising together the IDOLATRY Commandment:
The First of the Ten Commandments of Sinai:(
(1) I Am
(2) YHVH your ELHM
(3) Who took you out of Egypt land…
The Second of the Ten Commandments
(1) Thou shall not have other gods
(2) over my face…
Here, Moses presents the two aspects of the IDOLATRY Command:
The First aspect is positive: presenting G-d, whom we should KNOW and worship,
The Second aspect is negative: presenting the idols, whom we should KNOW and worship not.
Technically, most authorities talk about the negative side, about the idols, when they address IDOLATRY. Yet it is no less important to KNOW also the positive side, about G-d, whom we should recognize and address in our prayers.
What constitutes an idol?
A good definition of an idol is: anything that Man adores and surrenders his life to, instead of adoring and surrendering to Go-d.
Hence a modern idol may be a political party, drug, alcohol or even Art and Science if they dominate too much a person’s life.
IDOLATRY therefore is a battle of fascinations and adoration.
Man is either fascinated by G-d and worships Him, or fascinated by an idol and worships it.
Moses expresses this idea in the way he presents IDOLATRY. Man ‘stands’ between the two first Commandments.
He is either attracted and worships the idols in the Second Commandment “bellow,” or attracted and worships G-d in the first Commandment “above”.
Note that according to this presentation, Moses does not leave a room for ‘neutrality,’ for worshipping no one. Man, Moses assumes, is born to be attracted to worship someone. Let it better be “
The First of the Ten Commandment
The First of the Ten Commandments of Sinai:
(1) “I Am………………………… ……(SELF)
(2) YHVH your ELHM……………….(ATTRIBUTES) .
(3) Who took you out of Egypt land”..(DEEDS, KINGSHIP)
The first, positive part of the Commandment introduces the Speaker: G-d.
This is the way, He says, I wish you to KNOW me and ADDRESS me.
Line 1 presents the SELF, the I Am,
Line 2 presents the ATTRIBUTES: YHVH and ELHM
Line 3 presents G-d deed, His KINGSHIP in the world
For instance: entering your class room the first time I would introduce myself as follow –
- I Am (self)
- Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner (attributes, titles)
- And I teach Torah
I first present, in line 1, my “I”, my “self,” that has no other description.
Then, in line 2, I present my titles, and names. I have selected them carefully.
I mention Rabbi first, to inform you that I am well versed in Judaism, so I am qualified to stand here before you and teach Torah.
Then, still in line 2, I also mention my other title Dr. to inform you that I know something about Science and about our society etc. Hence, I am qualified to refer also to science in our class.
Then, in linen 3, I present to you my deeds, that I am engaged in other classes too, teaching Torah.
Having presented myself to you this way, you know now how to address me properly. A student should address me as “Rabbi” or Dr., though to you the title Rabbi is more relevant.
Thus, in Moses’ First Commandment the Speaker – G-d – presents Himself in the way we should KNOW Him and ADDRESS Him.
In the first line, the Speaker presents His SELF, which is beyond any description, also called His ESSENCE.
In the second line, the Speaker presents His ATTRIBUTES, or TITLES, namely YHVH and ELHM. Moses assumes that the reader is already familiar with those terms and titles from We Genesis Chapter One, where ELHM is shown as the ATTRIBUTE of JUDGMENT, and YHVH is shown as the ATTRIBUTE of MERCY. (It is similar to the titles Rabbi and Dr in my presentation of myself)
In the third line, the Speaker describes His Deeds, by which He wishes us to KNOW Him. He could have said “I Am YHVH your ELHM, who has CREATERD the World,” describing His deeds as a CREATOR. But speaking to Israel, the former slaves whom He had just redeemed, He thought that describing His Deeds as “the One Who has taken you p out of Egypt” would be more impressive.
This capacity of G-d to intervene in Nature or in human history is called KINGSHIP.
We comply with Moses’ First Commandment by blessing G-d for everything He has given us. For the bread we eat we say:
“Blessed are –
- Thou (You)
- YHVH (Ha-Shen) our ELoHiM
- The King of the Universe, who brings bread out of Earth”
We address Him line by line as He presents Himself in the First of the Ten Commandments.
By this we abide by the positive aspect of IDOLATRY – KNOWING the G-d of Israel.
This “coin of blessings” was established by the sages of Israel in Ezra time (550 BC) when they returned to the Land of Israel from Persia.
Our task now is to follow Moses First Commandment and comprehend the Titles ELHM, YHVH, and KINGSHIP.
Then we’ll move on to understand the Second of Moses’ Ten Commandment and learn about “all the possible idols.”
How would we learn about G-d’s Title? obviously, by the miraculous Chapter One of Genesis .