Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner

Dec 2021

 

Ó copyrights

IDOLATRY/16

The SELF as an IDOL

 

 

We continue the story of making Adam,

intertwined with IDOLATRY.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 Building in Adam

Self-consciousness, Ego

 

 

 

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

 

Thus,

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

with disgust

 

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?

 

ELHM answered:

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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 God,

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.

 

Moreover,

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

In love.

 

 

And with that drastic change in the Heavenly appearance

Came   a change in the meaning of IDOLATRY

Henceforth,

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.

 

Today,

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.

 

 

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