Rabbi Dr.Zvi Aviner
IDOLATRY-4/The KING WHO IS A JUDGE
We are studying the First Commandment of Noah: IDOLATRY
It was given to Adam and Eve in Eden. But the first time it appears in the open in the text is in Exodus, in the Ten Commandments of Sinai given to Israel. All nations can and should learn about IDOLATRY from there, although there are some differences between the nations and Israel
The IDOLATRY prohibition is presented in the Second of the Ten Commandments, that says “You shall not worship any God (EeLoHiM) besides me.” It is a negative commandment. Worshipping anything but the true God of Israel, is IDOLATRY. Hence to comply with it, we must first know who the God of Israel is!
Indeed, the Speaker-God- presents Himself in the First of the Ten Commandments in specific way, using three Lines:
- I Am (self)
- YHVH (LORD) your EeLoHiM (GOD) (Attributes)
- Who took you out of Egypt Land (Deeds, Kingship)
Meaning: This is the way you should (1) Know me (2) address me (3) Worship me.
Meaning: This is the way you should know Him INTELECTUALLY, and EMOTIONALY. The First Commandment of Moses has theoretical, logical implications as well as emotional ones. We should worship him, relate to Him, cling to Him in specific way, as instructed or guided by the Commandment.
It is customary to study first the intellectual part, know who G-d is, and then learn how to worship Him and cling to His Name.
The Heavenly Court
Last class we started the intellectual part by learning how to BLESS Him in our prayers and thanksgiving. Following the language of the First Commandment of Moses, we give thank for our food saying: “ Blessed are (1) You (2) YHVH (we say AadoNai, my Master) our EeLoHiM (3) the King of the Universe, Who has brought us bread from the ground.” All Nations can bless G-d in the same fashion following the First of the Ten Commandments. If offers many opportunities to connect to G-d many times during the day.
Moses does not elaborate here about the titles YHVH and ELHM. He assumes that the reader is already familiar with them from Genesis Chapter One, where the Attributes are first presented in details.
So, we go to the Book of Genesis to study about the Attributes. And by this, we start our journey through the Book, as the name of our course implies. Henceforth we’ll stick to the Book of Genesis as it would lead us , in the text, from one commandment to the next.
We’ve started by leaning about EeLoHiM. Genesis introduces the Name right away, in the first verse, saying “In the beginning, EeLoHiM created the Heavens and the Earth.”. The English translation G-d , we’ve said, loses the special meaning of the Hebrew term, which is the All Mighty JUDGE. The World was created, versed one says, by the JUDGE, to stand JUDGEMENT.
ELHM, we’ve said, seeks the TRUTH. His “Signature is Truth”, says the Talmud. He seeks it, to implement ABSOLUTE JUSTICE. He looks for the facts, that no one can hide from Him. His Name appears 32 times in the Six Days, implying that He seeks truth thoroughly, going to the facts many times to decipher the truth from lies. Of course, this description is done to show the human judge that he too should seek the truth thoroughly, spearing no effort.
In the Torah’s eyes, the closest way Man can emulate G-d is not by inventing I Phones but rather by seeking the truth and issuing a just verdict. It is, indeed, a Heavenly task given to Man.
Then, at the end of the Six Days, at Chapter 2 verse 4, the Torah says
On the Day that YHVH EeLoHiM made Earth and Heavens.
Here another Attribute of the CREATOR, Namely YHVH, is presented OPENLY in the text for the first time. YHVH, we’ve said, refers to another Attribute of the CREATOR, who showers MERCY. COMPASSION, FORGIVENESS and HOLINESS.
Thus looking at Genesis Chapter One from a bird view, the Six Days – the world – is seemed to be judged by the two Attributes, ELKM on one side and YHVH on the other side. ELHM appears strongly, 32 times in the six Days, while YHVH appears once. (we’ll lean the implications of that disparity later).
Thus, the world is ruled by a Heavenly Court, comprised of ELHM and YHVH. When the Infinite CREATOR sits on the Throne of Justice, as EeLoHiM, He finds the facts, and rules accordingly, following the dry law with no mercy. Then He would sit on the Throne of Mercy, as YHVH, and issue its opinion. The Attributes would then consult, or discuss the issue between themselves and would finally arrive at an aggregable verdict to be issued and executed in the world. The decree would seem like this
(1) I, The Infinite CREATOR (self)
(2) YHVH your ELoHiM (Attributes)
(3) Decree such and such (Verdict to be executed)
Which is identical to the structure of Moses’ First of the Ten Commandment.
It makes sense. As an introduction to the Ten Commandments, the Speaker wants us to know that we are being judged on them by the Heavenly Court , who is the Merciful Judge. The Court would first find the truth, then apply mercy to issue its final verdict. G-d says: this is how I am going to assess you and judge you.
A human judge should follow G-d and do the same. The human judge should also spare no time and effort to find out the truth and nothing but the truth. The judge should go again and again over the facts to ensure their validity. The judge should come up with the truthful and just verdict that reflects the law. Only then, the judge should also apply mercy, and compassion and forgiveness as warranted to the case. Then the judge should arrive at the final verdict that reflects both the mere justice and mercy.
For instance: running for election, a candidate should say:
Vote for me, for
- I am
- a truthful judge who knows mercy
- and would not hesitate to execute my verdicts
You certainly would not vote for a judge who say: “Vote for me because I am merciful.” To such a judge you would say: what about the murderers? Would you send them free with mercy without punishment?
You would also not vote for a candidate who promise to execute rough retributions to all sinners, with no mercy. You would expect some compassion and mercy being applied for to each person in the world.
Thus, the structure of Genesis Chapter One – Six Days ruled be YHVH and EeLoHiM – reflects the structure of the Heavenly Court that would say
I Am the JUDGE
The Merciful and the Judgmental
Who judges the world
It resembles Moses’ first of the Ten Commandments, that says
- I Am (Self)
- YHVH your EeLoHiM (Attributes)
- Who took you out of Egypt (Kingship)
Where the Speaker – G-d – is presented as the King of the Universe. Not only a JUDGE, but a KING.
This is enlargement of our previous notion.
The Attributes, YHVH and EeLoHIM, are more than “members of the Court,” more than MERCY and JUDGMENT.
Each Attribute participates and form the Heavenly Government that rules our world.
Each Attribute presents a way of Governing the world.
Each Attribute CREATES, RULES and LEADS the Universe in own style and way.
ELKM is not only a JUDGE.
He created the world in Six Days, the Six Floors house.
He built our world by giving orders, like “Let there be Light,” “let there be Grass, “let the water swarm with Fish.” He ordered, and everyone complied.
During the Six Days He ruled “Awesomely Alone,” consulting no one, asking no one’s opinion. And He ruled as a Dictator, with the upper hand, with no opposition or rebellion.
But He is fair and just. He gave every creature the talents necessary to survive and even thrive in its habitat.
He gives Vegetation the talent to perform photosynthesis, the wing to the birds, the gills to the fish and a powerful mind to Mankind.
He is the ultimate Provider, who shelters and feed every creature He creates.
As a truthful JUDGE and a RULER, He acts precisely, paying retributions “measure for measure.” Under His rule, animals eat and are eaten, cause pain and suffer pain, in endless cycle of Absolute Justice.
A King leads His Kingdom towards a goal. For instance, the USA Government leads the USA towards Peace, Freedom, Equality, Human Rights, Personal Growth and Happiness, providing Fair Opportunities to everyone.
ELHM as a Leader, leads the world according to His Plan. He created the Six Days in ascending order of sophistication, introducing evermore complex creatures. He has a goal – reaching the Sabbath.
YHVH too is not only merely a Merciful Attribute in the Heavenly Court.
YHVH participates in the World’s Government.
YHVH participated in the Six Days creation, showering on it Her light, CONSOLIDATING it, as we will learn.
Had the Merciful YHVH created the Universe alone, without the Attribute of Judgement ELKM , the world would have looked completely different, without any agony in it, without sorrow or death, but also without birth. Sharing the Government with ELKM, YHVH adds Her aspect to the way He Heavenly Government runs the world.
YHVH too leads the Universe to Her goal, the Sabbath.
We look now at the First of the Ten Commandment as a Government:
- I Am
- YHVH your ELHM (two ways of ruling)
- Who tool you out of Egypt.
To illustrate it, let’s think of the USA Government.
- I Am (The American People) – the source of power
- The Congress (where different policies are debated)
- The While House (where the rulings of the Congress are executed.)
Genesis Chapter One tells us: Man! Your world is ruled by the Heavenly Court of YHVH and ELHM.
You, Man, may look at nature and see in it a “mish mash” of galaxies, novae, black holes, black matter, atoms and electrons. You may comprehend them by your chemistry, physics and mathematical equations. And you may say: I don’t see any Government here, no Angel and no God here.
It resembles someone who comes to the USA and wishes to see the USA Government. They tell him: go to Washington DC and you will see it. He goes to Washington, sees the Congress’ building. measure its height and length, analyses the bricks’ material and its chemistry and physics in details; then proceeds to the t While House and does the same.
:Coming back home he complains: There is no USA Government there! I haven’t seen it despite of my efforts!
So they lough and tell him: The USA Government actually fills the Congress and the White House! But she is not a tangible object that you can detect and measure by your tools of science. The Government is in our mind!
So he says: If she is in your mind, maybe she does not exist! To which you’d lough an
say: Try not to pay your taxes on time and see how real she is!
Moses tells us: There is a Government here, that rules over the world including you!
And you might say : I don’t see Her!
To which Moses would say: Better not try to check Her!
Alberto Mussolini, in 1942, stood on a balcony in Milan, speaking to 100,000 cheering followers who shouted his name in craze. Holding his hands on his waist, he shouted to heavens: If there is a God, let Him kill me right here! (he really dared to say these words!)
Two years later by the day, in April 28, 1948, his corps was hung upside down with the heels up, in the same plaza, while mob cursed, spitted on and mutilated his remains (as reported by the New York Times.)
Hitler, who blamed the Jews for poisoning the Arain People by their Bible, committed suicide, blaming his beloved German people for forsaking him and loosing the war. The last order he gave to his generals was to destroy Berlin!
Yithro, Moses’ father-in-law, the first Noahide, heard “what YHVH had done to Pharaoh” so he came to visit Moses.
Rashi comments that hearing that the Egyptian army had been drowned in the Reed Sea, prompted Yithro to visit Moses.
The question is: What was so special in the scene at the Sea? Had not YHV done many more miracles for Israel back in Egypt?
The answer is that Yithro said to himself: Since Pharoah had drowned the newborn babies of Israel into the Nile, no wonder that God has drowned him into the Sea, measure for measure! Hence, indeed, there is a Heavenly Government that rules the world!”
The Ten Commandments presents the Speaker, G-d, either as a JUDGE or as a KING.
Once a year, on the “Anniversary of CREATION” High Holiday, so called Rosh Hashanah (New Year holiday,) the two capacities merge, and the KING becomes a JUDGE. He is called “The KING Who is (identified with) JUDGMENT.”
On that awesome day, G-d is said to “ascends” on the Throne of Judgement to Judge the entire Universe. “All creatures pass by Him as sheep before shepherd,” and He examines everyone “at once” and everyone “as individual” and decrees their fate for the next year.
It is both a day of celebration and a day of universal Judgment.
It is the only “Jewish” holiday that pertains to all Mankind, since it is not related to particular Jewish history.
In fact, we enthrone each Attribute separately.
At the Holy Temple of Jerusalem, they
Blew two silver trumpets to designate ELHM ascending on His Throne
Blew the rams’ horn (shofar) to designate YHVH ascending on Her Throne
And we recite the Psalm song that say: :
“ELHM has ascended by the (trumpets’ ) blow, YHVH by the horn (blow) …”
Moreover, On Rosh Hashanah we pray for the END OF IDOLATRY when all Mankind would know YHVH.