We use the first two of Moses’ Ten Commandments as a platform for studying IDOLATRY.
The First, positive Commandment presents the Speaker’s Names and Attributes
The Second, negative Commandment presents the idols.
The First Commandment says:
1. “I Am (His Essence)
2. “The Lord (YHVH) your G-d (ELoKiM) (His Attributes)
3.” Who took you out of Egypt Land” (His deeds, kingship)
In this Commandment, the Speaker expects us to KNOW and ADDRESS Him by these Names and Titles. It would be rude, if not a sin, to ignore or distort them or mispronounce them, or replace them by other Names.
Without knowing these names, you would not comprehend the Torah and its messages.
So who is ELoHiM?
Moses does not elaborate on this in the Ten Commandments. He assumes that the reader is already familiar with the Names from the Book of Genesis. There, in Chapter One, the Torah introduces the Names ELoKiM and Y-H-V-H, besides the concept of the CREATOR’S Kingship. Hence Chapter One explains the entire First Commandment of Sinai.
Miraculously, Genesis Chapter One also introduces IDOLATRY to its kind, listing all possible idol worshiping. Thus Chapter One also addresses Mose’s Second Commandment of Sinai.
So let’s go now to the Beginning of the Torah,to the miraculous Genesis Chapter One;
Suppose Moses or Noah comes to life and stands at a busy corner in one of our cities. In his ancient attire and long beard, he looks weird in the eyes of the passing by. Moses approaches them at random and asks:
“Excuse me sir, lady, are you familiar with the Bible?”
“Of course!” they say, giggling. They take him for a clown.
“If so, would you answer for me a most basic question: Who created the world, and for what purpose?”
Many shrug and walk their way. Others are intrigued by his question and say:
“Of course, G-d created the world, who else? Desn’t it say In the Beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth…” (Genesis 1: 1)
“If so,” Moses keep asking, for what purpose did He create the world?”
“Purpose?” Now the people are puzzled.
“But the verse does days the purpose!” Moses insists.
The people now try some answers, like: “He created it for the Messiah…” But Moses would disapprove. The verse does not say this.
“He created it for the prophets…for Israel…for good people…” They would offer an answer, but Moses would reject them all.
Tears run from his eyes. The most important message of his Torah has been wiped out and forgotten,
So according to Moses, for what purpose did the CREATOR create the Universe?
The answer lies in the Hebrew version of the text that says:
Where ELoHiM is the Hebrew term for “The All Mighty JUDGE,” (Rashi, Exodus 20:1, explaining the Ten Commandments.)
Oh, I hear you saying, you are too particular with your Hebrew! The issue is semantic! What could be the difference between the terms “G-d” and “ELHM?” (The text in the Hebrew scroll does not cart vowels. it says ELHM and you read it EeLoHiM.)
But the difference is enormous. The English word G-d infers reverence and awe and is holy, but it lacks the specific message that Moses wished to convey. The Hebrew term ELHM proclaims that THE WORLD WAS CREATED BY THE ALL MIGHTY JUDGE TO WITHSTAND JUDGMENT.
Thus the Infinite CREATOR, who is above our concept, , elected to create the world while sitting on the “Throne of Judgment.”
In other words: The Infinite, nameless CREATOR may ‘wear’ different ‘hats’ on different occasions (Midrash). He has infinite number of Attributes, hats. At CREATION, Moses says, He wore the hat of the All Mighty JUDGE, and created the world to stand a JUDGMENT.
Note that the Hebrew ‘ELoHiM’ may refer to any judge, even a human judge.
Like in the verse: “ELoHiM in your midst you should not curse, nor should you curse a prince in you nation…” (Exodus 22: 27.) Here the Torah forbids the cursing of “elohim,” a human judge, as well as a “prince in your nation.”
We all wonder whether there is a purpose for our Universe’ existence. Some philosophers argue that the very notion of purpose is a human projection onto a reality that has no purpose. The Torah says otherwise, that the purpose of our entire Universe is to stand a moral trial. if modern Quantum Physics says that our Universe depends on Consciousness (a position of atom spinning is dictated by the observer) than comes the Torah and adds that this Consciousness is predicated on Good and Bad, FOR A TRIAL./
The world on trial?
But how can the World stand on trial? You may wonder. Does it possess a mind and a Free will?
The answer is that every item in Nature, big or small, stands before the CREATOR in a trial within its realm. We humans may never comprehend the trial of the stone or the mosquito. After all, it is held between the CREATOR and His creatures.
But we may say, that at least all items of Nature must comply with the Natural Laws set up by the CREATOR, ELoHiM. Hence any deviation from these Laws would incur harsh retribution. A small change in the size of the atom or the charge of the electrons, and you’d get a different Universe. Our Universe is “elegant and precise,” and must abide by ELKM’s Laws.
Hence there might exist other, different Universes bereaved of any judgment. They would be conducted by other Attributes of the CREATOR. There might be for instance a world based on endless, unconditional Love and Compassion with no trial. This Universe, however, is based on trials, on the notions of sins and retributions conducted by its CREATOR, ELHM. This Universe may proceed towards another Day, another existence of unconditional Love, as we’ll see, but for now we live under the Attribute of Judgment, ELKM. No escape from that reality. .
Why creating the World as a Judge?
Tradition (Kabbala) explains that the Infinite CREATOR would have created our Universe ready to shower on it endless, unconditional Love and Compassion, without any judgment.
But in His Wisdom, the CREATOR chose to create our Universe in a way that its inhabitants would earn His favor and Love, by winning His Judgment, rather than by His Compassion. Earning your relationship with Him is more dignified than receiving his Charity. A baby gets unconditional Love. A mature person would resent such a treatment. The Torah wishes Mankind to be treated as a mature entity, rather than as a helpless child.
Note that the chapter says that “at the BEGINNING, ELKM created the Heavens and Earth,” implying that LATER the CREATOR would wear another hat, would choose another of His many Attributes, the Attribute of MERCY, to join in ruling it. This crucial point would be clearer as we continue to read the text.
Hence it comes out that our life consist of a chain of daily trials, one leading to the next. We are born to withstand those trials and tribulations. We may win a trial only to enter a new one. we actually grow spiritually by winning or losing our trials. This is true for the individual as well as for our species.
The awareness of our judgment can change people’s life. A true story: A young (non Jewish) person who lived a different life style asked me: “Doc, I’ve heard that you teach Torah. Would you give me just one of her messages?”
To which I replied: “Do you know that purpose of CREATION?” And the person replied: “No, what is it?” So I said: “The first verse of Genesis says that the world was created by the JUDGE to stand Judgment.”
“Judgment?” he wondered, “not for Love?” And he turned around and left me.
A few weeks later he approached me. “Doc, your words have kept me awake. For the last few weeks I have been pondering about them. Thank you.”
He then left our town and moved to another metropolitan. People have told me that he has also changed his lifestyle.
4: We are not alone
The idea that the World stands on JUDGMENT sound tough and alarming, but it also has a s positive aspect, that our deeds and thoughts are watched; that someone bigger than us has an interest in us, that WE ARE NOT ALONE.
Rosh Hashanah Holiday
People have been asking me for a ‘proof’ that the interpretation I have posted here for the first verse in Genesis is genuine; that it does reflect ancient Judaism.
The best proof I can offer comes from the Jewish New Year Holiday, the Rosh Hashanah. It is not only the first day of the new year, but also the Annual Anniversary of CREATION!,
As it turns out, the Rosh Hashanah is celebrated as a solemn day of Universal Judgment, where it is believed that all creatures, including Man, pass before ELKM’s Throne while He examines each of them and determines their fate for the next year.
Can you ask for a better proof for the validity of our interpretation of the first verse?
Here are some quotations from the Rosh Hashanah’s prayer book:
- “Today, is the day that the world was conceived…today you place all creatures on trial…”
- “Today, every creature passes before you as herd before its shepherd, while you count and remember each one and decree its judgment for the next year…”
What are ELKM’s ways of Judgment?
The rest of Genesis Chapter One was written for that goal. Here are some points:
1. He judges every Day
At the end fo each Day of CREATION (besides the second Day) ELKM said that it was good. Hence it is clear that ELKM has acted as a JUDGE. If the Day was good, He was pleased and allowed it ti enter the next Day. If the Day was not good in His eyes, He would have terminated it. .
2: ELoHiM pursues the Absolute Justice and Truth
ELoHiM by definition uses the Absolute Justice to issue a verdict.
He is therefore a TRUTHFUL JUDGE.
His nickname is TRUTH, ‘emeth.’
His signature is ‘TRUTH,’ emeth.
For instance: when a dear person passes away, we acknowledge the verdict by saying: “Blesses is the Truthful Judge.”
3: ELoHiM pays “Measure for Measure,” (Midah against Midah)
ELKM treats His creatures “measure for measure” in an absolute justice. We can see that in Nature, where creatures inflict pains on other creatures, only to suffer pains themselves. Creatures eat, only to be eaten. No escape.
Years ago I watched with my children a National Geographic video, where a small snake came out crawling along a river’s shore, looking for breakfast. Indeed, as the snake moved, it captured and swallowed numerous tiny frogs. You could still discern their bodies twisting inside the snake’s belly. The snake continued to swallow its victims with insatiable apatite.
But then the unsuspecting snake passed by a huge frog that had been patiently waiting for it. With unbelievable fast movement, the frog acted and cut off the snake’s head. Then it swallowed the snake, with all the little frogs still twisting in the snake’s belly. Seeing this I jumpedup and down with my children shouting: “Yes! ELoHiM pays back measure for measure!”
Note that vegetarians are included in this Universal judgment. Who can value the life of a vegetable against the life of an animal? Only the CREATOR can do this!
4. ELoHiM’s judgment is harsh
ELoHiM, by definition, rules harshly by the iron fist with no MERCY. Thing He deems ‘not good’ are eliminated with no compassion.
For example: ELKM says “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It sounds harsh. But one should pay attention to the SPEAKER. The stone Tablet of Sinai were written by “the fingers of ELoHiM” (Exodus 32: 15.) They represent therefore the ABSOLUTE JUSTICE.
But the Oral Torah (we’ll speak about her) says otherwise, that the perpetrator would pay monetary compensation only. Another Attribute of the CREATOR, the Attribute of Mercy, would override the harsh verdict of ELKM! .
5: ELKM created the Six Days as a Tyrant
Before making Adam, during the Six Days of CREATION, ELHM created by orders, as a tyrant. He commanded and things happened.
Only before making Adam, ELKM changed His way. Instead of issuing a command, saying Let it be an Adam, He spoke in plural, saying Let Us Make an Adam. In other words: before making Adam He Descended from His High Pedestal as an Absolute JUDGE, and acted as a King Who Consuls, a tyrant no more.
6: ELoHiM is like a builder
During the Six Days of CREATION, ELoHiM created the Universe as a Builder of a Six Floors Building. Each Day consists a Floor. At the end of each Day, the Builder checked the last Floor He had built, whether or not it was ‘good’ in His eyes.
If the Floor was deemed good, the Builder placed another Floor on top. If it was deemed not good, ELHM the Builder eliminated it to nothingness .
This mode of checking took place Day after Day, At the end of the Sixth Day, On the Third and the Sixth Days ELKM checked the Day twice: once at Midday and once at the end of the Day. At the end of the Sixth Day He checked not only the passing Day, the last Flor, but rather the entire Six Floor Building.
7. ELoHiM is Wise
The Wisdom by which the Universe is built is revealed to us by studying Nature. Our amazing capability to grasp that Wisdom comes form the fact that ELKM consulted His Wisdom and made us (as we’ll see in Adam creation..)
He blessed us with this Wisdom so that we would be able to “be fruitful and multiply and rule over it.”
8. ELoHiM is precise
ELoHiM’s JUDGMENT is precise, measure for measure. He created the World with precision. His Natural Laws are exact. Our Universe, modern physics says, is ‘elegant and precise.’
9. ELoKiM is the Ultimate Provider. He is KIND.
Merciless and Harsh He is, yet Kind. He is the Ultimate Provider who takes care of all His creatures and provides them with the necessary talents to thrive in their habitats. Thus, if we follow the events described in Genesis Chapter One,
1. He gave the vegetation 0f the Third Day the talent to photo synthesize Sunlight
2. He gave the fish of the Fifth Day gills to breath and fins to float and swim in the water and digestive system to live on vegetation
3. He gave the birds of the Fifth Day, wings to soar up into the sky and catch fish
4. He gave the crocodiles of the Fifth Day the talents to escape the water into dry land, and teeth to catch the birds
5. He gave the cattle of the Sixth Day the talent to digest vegetation
6. He gave the beasts of the Sixth Day he talent to prey on the cattle
7. He gave the crawling creatures of the Sixth Day the talent and tools to bite and swallow other creatures
8. He gave Adam of the Sixth Day the tools and talents to thrive in our habitat, Earth. In His Kindness He also tells Adam how to win our Judgment.
10. ELoHiM ‘fills’ the ‘heart’ of Nature
Where is ELKM? Is He above, or below?
In the miraculous Chapter One of Genesis, during the Sx Days, ELHM’s Name appears 32 times, in more dense fashion than in any other chapter of the Torah. (He appears 3 more times in the Sabbath, making it 35 times, which is the number of prototypes of works forbidden on the Sabbath.)
As it turns out, the number 32 is written in Hebrew as Lb (where ‘a’ is 1, ‘b’ is 2, ‘c’ is 3 and ‘L’ is 30.) ‘Lb’ means ‘heart.’ The message is: ELoHiM dwells at the heart of Nature, sustaining it as the heart sustains the body. He is INSIDE everything; and nothing exists without Him. The Universe is In HIM, rather than the other way around. There is NO “empty space” without Him, as some writers have suggested.The fact that evil exists and people suffer does not imply that ELHM is not ‘there’.
Indeed, in Kabala ELHM is called “One Who Fills the World.”
A hint: the numerical value of the word ‘ELoHiM,’ is 86.
Miraculously, the numerical value of ‘The Nature,’ Ha-teva is also 86.
In contrast, another Attribute, of MERCY (YHVH), on whom we are about to learn, is called: “One Who Surrounds the world”. She ‘surrounds’ even ELKM and therefore OVERRIDES Him.
11. ELoKiM’s judgment is equal, penetrating everything
As it is said: “And the wind (spirit?) of ELoHiM was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2.)
The verse simply infers that
1. ELHM’s Throne of Judgment is hovering over waters (A theme of Rosh Hashanah services)
2. ELHM uses Water as a whip, as in Noah’s Flood
3.ELHM’s Justice penetrates everything, like water.
4. ELHM’s justice is even and equal to all, like water’s surface. He recognizes no royalty and no privileges.
12 ELoHiM weights our merits on His Scale
ELHM judges us by weighting our deeds on His scale:
Our merits are placed on one side, our sins on the other.
The tilt of our scale determines our fate for the next year.
13: Righteousness and wickedness
When the scale tilts in our favor, we are RIGHTEOUS in His eyes.
When the scale tilts against us, we are SINNERS or WICKED in His eyes.
Hence the terms “righteous” and “wicked” (Tzadik and Rasha) which express our verdict in ELKM’s court, rather than our character (Maimonides) (YHVH in contrast assesses us emotionally.)
’ELoKiM‘ (ELKM) instead of ELoHiM
ELoHiM is a Holy Name, hence we will henceforth follow tradition and write and call it ELoKiM (in short ELKM without vowels.)
I hear your question: Where is His Mercy? To answer that, we need to continue reading Genesis Chapter One.
Questions posted by Rabbi Z Aviner:
(1) The world e was created by (a) the Attribute of Judgment (b) by ELoHiM (c) by the All Mighty JUIDGE (d) all the above
(2) The title ELoHiM means (a) Merciful (b) King (c) JUDGE (d) Compassionate
(3) ELoHiM is (a) unkind (b) aloof (c) harsh judge (d) acts in vengeance
(4) ELoHiM judges by (a) absolute mercy (b) vengeance (c) without justice (d) measure for measure
(5) The lion kills the lamb because (a) ELoKiM does not like the lamb (b) the lion prevails forever (c) the lion would be eaten too (d) the lion is powerful and godly
(6) The world was created for (a) the messiah (b) for Israel (c) for the prophets (d) for judgment
(7) By stating that “the spirit of ELoHiM hovers over waters” the Torah infers that (a) his judgment is even to all, like water’s surface (b) his judgment penetrates everything like water (c) he uses water to execute His punishment, like in Noah’s Flood (d) all the above
(8) The New Year Holiday, Rosh Hashanah, is a day of (a) getting drunk (b) partying (c) kissing your neighbor’s wives (d) universal judgment
(9) ELoKiM is (a) precise (b) just (c) truthful (d) all the above
(10)ELoKiM sits (a) above Nature (b) under the earth (c) inside our hearts only (d) at the core, or the ‘heart’ of CREATION
Read also: “Genesis Vs. Science, Can They Match?” By Zvi Aviner, at www.smashwords.com