Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
Our Sweetest Idol, Our Self
We continue the story of making Adam,
intertwined with IDOLATRY.
1. Building Adam’s Art
Having consulted with YHVH, with the Six Days
and with the Wisdom in His Head,
ELHM continued to build another layer
in Adam’s body and mind.
He turned to Verse 2, where it says
“And the Spirit of ELHM was hovering over the Water,
Consulting “His Spirit” He said to it:
Let Us Make and Adam in our Form and Our Image.”
He then planted His Spirit in Adam’s mind and heart
What is ELHM’s Spirit?
There are many suggestions.
The Torah says about Bezalel, the artist
who made the holy vessels
, that he was endowed with the Spirit of ELHM
and could therefore make for Moses’ Tabernacle
exceptionally beautiful golden vessels and furniture
Hence the notion, that the Spirit of ELHM
refers to the artistic talent of Adam.
which is a higher expression of the SELF
than our intelligence and logic.
Thus, facing nature, Adam responds by three faculties:
(1) curiosity (2) wander (3) fascination
Curiosity would bring Adam to ask how things work,
seeking logical explanations
wonder would lead Adam to respond with art:
painting, carving, composing and playing music, architecture
Fascination would lead Adam to worship, to develop religion
This consultation was a precious gift to Adam,
enriching our lives with art and emotions
but it also opened the door for IDOLATRY
Because our wonder and fascination
would lead Man to worship items in Nature
being attracted and impressed by its beauty
But we may be attracted by the practice of IDOLATRY.
We would love to feel thrilled and emotionally stirred up
by the very practice of IDOLATRY.
We might love to enter ecstasy, to feel elated
We might be impressed by huge cathedrals and sweet choirs
And be impressed by fiery speeches
So, Moses warns us here not to fall a prey
To the beauty and glory of the practice of IDOLATRY,
Or by feeling good and elated practicing IDOLATRY
We should focus on the idol itself, which is false,
And separate it from its practice
We should note that these features of Adam spirit,
Curiosity, Wander and Fascination,
Science and Art, are not mutually exclusive.
We may develop science, explaining Nature,
then wonder how our mind could have achieved that.
We might be so fascinated, that we would
Turn Science to be our idol.
2. Building in Adam
Next, ELHM turned to build in Adam
a strong SELF perception.
Where is SELF mentioned in Chapter One?
When ELHM said “Let Us make Adam in Our Form and Our Image,”
He used plural voice, meaning “Me and You.”
You can say that He consulted the “Me,” the SELF
And made Adam’s SELF.
Our SELF is therefore of divine origin,
And not a psychologic mirage, as other religions preach.
What did He mean by saying
“In Our Form and Our Image?”
G-d, of course, has no body, no image and no form.
Rashi explains that when ELHM said these words,
He had on His Mind an “image and form” of an “IDEAL ADAM”
who would become, through history, Very Good.
ELHM was sending Adam a message,
That after he is born, he can improve himself
with the guidance of ELHM, and become Very Good
ELHM would give him a Torah, that would lead him forwards
Adam is born to be ELHM’s Partner in a long, historical journey
preparing Adam to win the End of Day’s Judgment
and enter the next Day, the Sabbath
But to become Very Good,
Adam would have to invite
the Merciful Attribute YHVH
Into his heart, by his Free Will
For the Merciful YHVH would not enter our hearts
unless we’ve invited Her on our own Free Will.
Hence in order to be Very Good,
Adam would have to possess
a strong SELF and an absolutely Free Will.
Otherwise, the Shechinah would escape from us
So, for that purpose, ELHM consulted His SELF
And planted in Adam a strong sense
of Individual SELF and a Free will.
ELHM is One and alone,
and Adam’s individual SELF, is one and alone
Two individual SELVES confronting each other:
G-d’s SELF and Adam’s SELF.
This sense of Individual SELF is a precious gift to Adam,
But also a trap of IDOLATRY,
For Adam may worship his SELF,
instead of G-d’s SELF
The SELF sets Adam apart,
For all other creatures in Nature are void of such sense.
All other creatures in Nature see themselves as part of Nature,
with no border between them and Nature.
Even the smart, social creatures like Ants and Bees,
who were born on the Sixth Day, just before Adam,
they possess a community SELF, but no individual SELF
An individual ant would throw itself into the water
in order to provide a bridge for its sister ants to pass on.
God planted in them a sense of “Species SELF”
taking care of the species rather than the individual
Adam in contrast is blessed with a sense of SELF
that is unique to each and every individual.
Every human should aspire to become Very Good,
rather than leave it to our human species.
So, when Adam is made in Genesis Chapter One,
Adam stands alone confronting Nature,
And also stands alone confronting G-d, who is One and Alone.
What does the SELF aspire to achieve the most?
The SELF aspires to grow,
to be recognized and exalted by other SELVES
as their king.
How do we see that in the text?
When ELHM consulted the opinions of others
before making Adam,
He also consulted the Angels saying:
Should I make an Adam?
The Angles responded:
Our King, why consulting us at all?
Aren’t we your faithful messengers,
who fulfill your wish with no discretion?
Aren’t you afraid that by speaking in plural,
you’ve opened the door for idolaters
To worship their OWN SELVES rather than Your SELF?
I consult you nevertheless, to teach Adam modesty,
that the superior would consult the inferior
before making a decision.
From here the Angels derived,
that Adam would have such a big, inflated SELF,
That would render him extremely arrogant,
Leading him to push away G-d from his mind
and from the world.
The rabbis therefore said,
that HaSheM and an arrogant person,
who worships himself,
Cannot coexist in the same room.
The Shechinah, they said,
can’t enter the room in Adam’s heart
if she finds it full of SELF Appreciation and Arrogance.
Moses could see and hear HaSheM, as the Torah says,
because he was the most modest person on Earth.
His Ego, his SELF, did not interfere between him and G-d.
He had no personal agenda whatsoever.
And they also said that an arrogant person, who worships himself,
Would always stumble over the next Commandment- ADULTERY.
From Heavens, they said, they make him stumble over ADULTERY
So that everyone would see how arrogant this person is.
3. What is the task of the SELF?
We’ve said that ELHM consulted His SELF and made Adam’s SELF
But what is G-d’s SELF?
God’S SELF is described in the Ten Commandments, as it says:
I Am (SELF)
YHVH your ELHM (Attributes)
Who took you out of Egypt Land (Kingship)
Here God’s SELF, the “I Am”,
is described as an ARBITER between the Attributes
Hence, in the Heavenly Court,
each Attribute speaks out its own aspect,
whereas the I Am, the SELF, decides the final verdict
Since we, humans, are built in the same way,
Our SELF keeps the balance of all our internal forces together
Since we have strong drives,
we need a strong SELF to be the Arbiter
leading us to make the right decisions in our lives
You see that role of the Heavenly SELF, as an ARBITER,
Playing out in the Heavenly Court Session
before Noah’s Flood
The text describes first the opinion of YHVH
then the opinion of ELHM,
Then the verdict issued by the SELF,
Saying: “And I, My SELF, shall bring forth the Flood.”
Once the SELF’S verdict is issued,
It can’t be reversed or changed by prayers.
The time to pray and change is
while the Attributes debate our case.
4. Reflecting our SELF onto the Outside
Let’s go back to Genesis Chapters One and two.
Here Adam is first created alone,
And Eve joined him later.
When Adam is alone,
his SELF can expand with no bound.
He tends to project his SELF over Nature,
and over G-d.
To ancient Man,
The trees could talk, the stones could sing,
the birds could speak to each other,
and the forest was seen full of magical spirits and demons.
To ancient Man,
the deities looked and behaved like himself.
They eat and drank and had the same feelings as himself
IDOLATRY Commandment at that stage of history meant
Man! Do not confuse you with G-d!
know your SELF,
And know the difference
It also meant
Do not follow your SELF aspiration
That leads you to rebel against G-d.
Know who is superior, and who is inferior
Learn to subdue your SELF,
And subject your Will to His Will.
Stand before your CREATOR
with profound modesty
Thus, in Chapter One, when Adam is made,
the only Commandment mentioned is IDOLATRY.
It is the nucleus of all the Commandments
between Man and God,
that Moses would place on the right Tablet of Sinai.
Enlarging Adam’s SELF
All that changed in Genesis Chapter Two.
G-d, referred here as YHVH ELHM,
the two Attributes glued together,
noticed that it was not good for Adam to be alone,
therefore He – YHVH ELHM –
formed another human SELF, Eve
as “a Helper Against him.”
Why against him?
When two human SELVES collide,
a titanic “life and death” clash occurs,
says the philosopher Hegel (18th century).
Each SELF attempts to clearly define its borders,
what is SELF, and what is the ORTHER SELF.
The result of that titanic confrontation is
that each SELF farther entrenches into itself,
defining it. SELF more accurately from the other,
Drawing the lines more starkly between the two
The stronger the resistance of each other SELVES
To bb engulfed by the other,
the stronger each SELF would come out
from the struggle
The end of that clash, says Hegel,
can happen in two ways:
In one way-
when one SELF is perceived as SUPERIOR,
and the other as INFERIOR
(the Master and Slave parable ).
Or, the clash may end
when each SELF learns to respect the other SELF,
and the two join in forming a new, larger SELF
that is the “synthesis” of the two individual SELVES
In Eden, YHVH ELHM made Eve as a “helper against Adam,”
So that she would make Adam’s SELF stronger
And he would make her SELVES stronger,
Each SELF more precisely defined.
The clash between Adam and Eve
brought up a new, FAMILY SELF, as it is said:
“Therefor, Man leaves his father and mother,
clings to his wife, and they become ONE flesh.”
Here “they become One flesh” means
the arrival of a new SELF, the Family SELF,
that is born in Adam and Eve’s marriage
It also means that
The new Family SELF, is wider and stronger
than the individual SELF of each partner alone.
And that this union would stay strong as along
the “One God” dwells between them,
and glue them to each other.
It also means that
Once God departs from their union,
The marriage would fall apart,
And each partner would be driven away
by his or her own Individual SELF
To enhance their union and keep Adam and Eve together,
God – YHVH ELHM – added in Eden
a new, second Commandment: ADULTERY
Which is based on that very verse
That enlists all the forbidden sexual relationships.
Thus, in Eden we see the nucleus of
the new types of Commandments,
the Laws between Man and Man
such as BLOODSHED, THEFT and INJUSTICE
That Moses would place on the left Tablet.
And with the widening of the SELF
from individual to the familiar,
Came a change in the perception of G-G,
And with it,
The meaning of IDOLATRY.
In Chapter One we see in the text
The name ELHM repeated 35 times (including the Sabbath)
And the name YHVH hidden from the naked eye,
Revealed to the reader only as an acronym
Posted at the transition between the Sixth to the Seventh Days
Whereas in the story of Eden,
YHVH ELHM are seen glued together
Like two Cherubs in Love,
Holding each other’s Wing.
In That capacity, as a Heavenly Couple,
They (He) formed the human couple
And with that drastic change in the Heavenly appearance
Came a change in the meaning of IDOLATRY
In addition to the Command of Chapter One
Namely: To obey G-d’s Will, to be modest,
Now came a new meaning that says:
Do not separate the two Attributes, YHVH and ELH
Who formed you together in Eden.
And do not follow each Attribute alone,
but rather see them as One.
Farther changes in our SELF perception
In our perception of G-D
And the meaning of IDOLATRY
After the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden,
Mankind evolved into societies and nations
and our SELF perception grew accordingly.
When Mankind proliferated, like before the Flood,
G-d was perceived as many gods,
Besides separating between the Attributes.
And when after the Flood, nations were born
G-d became a national god,
Taking care only on its nation
To the exclusion of all others
IDOLATRY acquired a new meaning
Of the obligation to see Him
As the G-d of all Mankind
As taught by Moses.
in the wake of the tremendous success of Science’
Man’s SELF has grown so much
That most people now believe
That Man created G-d,
Rather than G-d created Man
They say that G-d and His Bible is just another story,
concocted by our human brain,
no different from all other stories and myths
told in ancient and modern times
We pray that by the grace of God,
soon Mankind would find the truth
and see the end of IDOLATRY in the world
and all Mankind would know
that HasheM is One, and His Name is One.