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 (sch as ELoHiM and YHVH) whom we should worship
The Second, negative Commandment presents the idols who we should worship not.
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)
Here the Speaker expects us to KNOW Him (rather than believe in Him) and ADDRESS Him by these Names and Titles. It would be rude, if not a sin, to ignore, distort or mispronounce them or replace them by other Names.
Moreover, without knowing these names, you can’t comprehend the Torah (Bible) and you would not get its moral messages. These Names are the key to the Bible.
So who is ELoHiM?
Let’s start by learning the Names in line 2. Who is E-L-K-M? Who is Y-H-V-H? Moses does not elaborate on this in the Ten Commandments because he assumes that the reader is already familiar with these Names from the Book of Genesis. There, in Genesis Chapter One, Moses introduces the Names ELoKiM and Y-H-V-H successively. He also introduces the notion of the CREATOR’S Kingship (line 3 above) and the option of IDOLATRY (the Second of his Ten Commandments) . Hence Genesis Chapter One addresses everything that is mentioned in the First and Second of the Ten Commandments of Sinai! .
So let’s start with the Beginning of the Torah and ask:
Suppose Moses comes to life and stands at a busy corner in one of our cities, let’s say NY. In his ancient attire and long beard he looks like an actor to the people who pass by. Moses politely stop them at random and asks:
“Excuse me sir/lady, have you read the Bible?”
“Of course!” they all say, giggling. They take him for a clown.
” If so, would you answer me one basic question: Who created the world, and for what purpose?”
Many shrug and walk their way. They have no time for nonsense. Others are intrigued and say to him:
“Of course, G-d created the world, who else? Doesn’t it say In the Beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth…” (Genesis 1: 1) ?
“If so,” Moses asks, “for what purpose did He create the world?”
“Purpose?” Now the people are puzzled. “There is no purpose mentioned!”
“Yes, the verse does mention it,” Moses insists.
Now the people try some answers such as: “G-d created the world for the Messiah…for the prophets…for Israel…for good people…” But Moses keep rejecting these offers. “your answer must be supported by the the verse!” he says. After while tears run out from his eyes. How is it that the most important message of the Bible, has been but wiped out from the memory of Mankind?
The answer to Moses’ question is indeed given in the first verse itself. The Hebrew version of it says:
Where ELoHiM means in Hebrew “The JUDGE,” (Rashi, Exodus 20:1, explaining the names in the Ten Commandments.)
Oh, you may say, what’s the difference between the term G-d and ELHM?(I write the name without vowels as it appears in the Hebrew scroll’s text)
But the difference is great. The term G-d does infer a sense of reverence and awe and it is a holy Name. Yet ut it lacks the specific message that THE WORLD WAS CREATED BY THE ALL MIGHTY JUDGE TO WITHSTAND JUDGMENT.
Let\s elaborate: The Name ELHM is only an Attribute. The Infinite CREATOR, who is above our concept and above any Name. has 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 or “hats.” At CREATION, however, He “wore the hat of the All Mighty JUDGE” to create the world for JUDGMENT.
Note that the Hebrew term 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” who is clearly a human judge, as well as cursing a “prince in your nation” who is your human king
In contrast to those faiths and philosophies who see no purpose for the world’s existence, Moses says that the world exists to stand a trial, a moral trial. Yes, the entire sea of galaxies exists so that a human race would grow on Earth and stand a moral trial. (it does not necessarily mean that we are the only creatures to stand that trial.)
A note: Modern Quantum Physics says that this Univers’e existence is predicated on Consciousness. Moses likewise says that it exists for a Moral Trial. .
The world on trial?
But the verse says that it is not only MAN who stands in a trial. The entire world was created for it. How than can the world be on trial? Does it possess a mind and a Free will?
One good answer is that every item in the Universe, large or small, stands before its CREATOR in a trial within its realm. We humans may not comprehend that trial which is held between the CREATOR and His creatures.
But we may say that each item in Nature must comply with the Natural Laws set up by its CREATOR, ELoHiM. Hence any deviation from those Laws would incur a harsh retribution. A small change in the size of the atom or the charge of the electrons would yield a different Universe. Our Universe is “elegant and precise” and must abide by ELKM’s Laws. This is one aspect of Nature’s trial.
But as we’ll soon see there is another meaning for the world’s trial. We. Mankind are a part of Nature. In fact we are the apex of the Evolution. We are made of everything that preceded us. When we fail our trial it is as if the entire Evolution has failed. We’ll soon see how this idea is explicitly expressed in the verses. . .
Why creating the World as a Judge?
Tradition (Kabbala) explains that the Infinite CREATOR would have created our Universe with endless, unconditional Love and Compassion, without trials and tribulations and without judgments.
But the CREATOR, in His Wisdom, elected to create our Universe so that we would earn our merits and His Love. Earning is more “dignified” than getting His care as charity (“a sham’s bread” .) .
Is there another Attribute?
But don’t despair. The verse says that “at the BEGINNING, ELKM created the Heavens and Earth.” Implying that LATER He asked another Attribute, of MERCY, to join Him in the Heavenly Court (Rashi). We;ll soon see how it iis shown in the verses. .
Since we are born by the Judge ELKM to stand a judgment, we move in our lives from one moral trial to another, till we die.
A true story: A young (non Jewish) person who lived an alternative life style asked me one day “Doc, I know you teach Torah. Would you give me just one of her messages?”
To which I replied: “Do you know that purpose of CREATION?”
“No, what is it?” he asked.
So I said: “The first verse in Genesis says that the world was created by the JUDGE to stand Judgment.”
“For Judgment?” he wondered, “not for Love?” And he turned around and left.
But a few weeks later he approached me again. “Doc, your words have kept me awake, “he said, “for the first time I know now what to do”
He then left our town and moved to another metropolitan. People have told me that he has also changed his lifestyle. I wish hom the best.
4: We are not alone
On one hand the notion that the World stands on a JUDGMENT is alarming, but on the other hand it sends a very positive message that we are never alone. Some is watching us from above. .
The Rosh HaShanah Holiday
People have asked me for a ‘proof’ to our interpretation of the first verse that says that ELKM the JUDGE created the Heavens and the Earth for a Judgment. . The best ‘proof’ I can offer is derived from the Jewish New Year Holiday, the Rosh Hashanah. It is celebrated as the Annual Anniversary of CREATION and it is a day where the whole Universe stands on Judgment.
Our prayer book for Rosh HaShannah says:
“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…”
The 13 attributes of Judgment
What are ELKM’s ways of Judgment?
The rest of Genesis Chapter One gives the answer. Here are some points:
1. He judges every Day
At the end of each Day of CREATION (besides the 2nd) ELKM said “it was good.” Hence ELKM judged each Day whether or not it was good. .
2: ELoHiM pursues the Absolute Justice and Truth
ELoHiM, tradition says, follows the Absolute Justice. .
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 back “Measure for Measure” (Midah against Midah.)
ELKM pays back “measure for measure” in Absolute Justice. We see that in Nature where creatures eat only to be eaten, inflict pains only to suffer pains. .
Years ago I watched with my children a National Geographic video. It captured a small green snake which crawled along a shore looking for breakfast. As it moved it swallowed numerous tiny frogs. You could watch the marks of their ir bodies being pushed inside the snake’s belly. The snake had insatiable apatite so it kept crawling and eating those tiny frogs
Then the unsuspecting snake passed by a huge frog that had been patiently waiting for it. The huge frog did not blink or breath. As the snake approached close the huge frog acted in unbelievable fast movement. It severed the snake’s head and then swallowed its entirety, along with the other little frogs still twisting in the snake’s belly.
Seeing this I jumped up and clapped my hands shouting: “ELoHiM is here! Measure for measure…”
Note that eating vegetarians won’t remove you from the Universal judgment. For who can value the life of a vegetable against the life of an animal? Only the CREATOR would!
4. ELoHiM’s judgment is harsh
As seen in Nature, ELoHiM rules harshly using an iron fist with NO MERCY. Thing He deems ‘not good’ are eliminated with no compassion.
For example: ELKM’s law says “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It is a law written by ELKM’s Fingers (Exodus 32: 15). These wards present an ABSOLUTE JUSTICE.
But the Oral Torah (we’ll lean about her) says otherwise that the perpetrator should pay monetary compensation only. The Oral Torah presents the view of the Heavenly Court comprised of Mercy and Judgment, as we’ll see. .
5: ELKM created the Six Days as a Tyrant
During the Six Days of CREATION, ELHM created Day by Day by “orders” such as “Let it be grass.” He Commanded and things happened. This mode of ruling changed before creating Adam, as He spoke in plural saying “Let Us Make an Adam..”
In other words: tradition holds that before making Adam, ELKM acted as a Tyrant, asking no one’s opinion, consulting no one. But just prior to making Adam He changed His tone, ‘Descended’ from His High Pedestal as an Absolute JUDGE and a Tyrant, and became a “King Who Consuls,” meaning a ‘Democratic ruler’ who considers opinions of others. |who are these others? We’ll see that in due course. .
6: ELoHiM is like a builder
ELKM is depicted, during the Six Days of CREATION, as a Builder of a Six Floors Building. Each Day of CREATION comprises a Floor. Thus at the end of each Day, or each Floor, the Builder ELKM comes and checks the last Floor He had built, to see whether or not it was ‘good’ in His eyes.
If the Floor was deemed ‘good’ the Builder went on and placed another Floor on top. If it was deemed ‘not good’ in His #Eyes, the Builder eliminated it to nothingness .
This checking took place Day after Day . On the 2nd Day He did not check it but on the 3rd Day He checked the Day twice. He also checked the 6th Day twice. We’ll learn in details to implications of those midday judgments.
7. ELoHiM is Wise
ELKM built His Universe by Wisdom. Kabbalah sees a hint for that in the words “In the Beginning, ELKM created the Heavens and the Earth.” The Hebrew for Beginning, Be-reishit can be easily read as “In the Rosh,” or “In the Head” implying that ELKM used His Head (or the wisdom in it) to create the Heaven and the Earth. This is important since ELKM later consulted His Wisdom also to make Adam, thereby planting a smart mind in Adam’s head. This is why these is nothing in nature that can evade the searching human mind
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 is ‘elegant and precise.’
9. ELoKiM is the Ultimate Provider. He is KIND.
Merciless and Harsh as He is, yet Kind. He is the Ultimate Provider who takes care of His creatures’ needs and provides them with all the necessary talents to thrive in their habitats. Thus,
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 inland, 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?
The rabbis noticed that the Name ELKM appears during the Six Days 32 times. Now 32 is written Lb, where L stands for 30 and b for 2. As it turns out, Lb means in Hebrew a Heart. Hence the notion that ELKM resides at the heart of Nature, or that He sustains it as the heart sustains the body.
ELKM is INSIDE everything. Nothing exists without Him. There is NO “empty space” without Him, as some writers suggest in order to explain the existence of evil. Kabbalah refers to ELHM as “One Who Fills the World.”
Another hint: the numerical value of the word ‘ELoHiM,’ is 86. Miraculously, the numerical value of ‘The Nature,’ Ha-teva is also 86. ELKM is the creator of Nature.
11. ELoKiM’s judgment is equal to all, penetrating everything
It is said: “And the wind (spirit?) of ELoHiM was hovering over the waters…” (Genesis 1:2.) The verse implies that
1. ELHM’s Throne of Judgment is hovering over waters (A basic theme of Rosh Hashanah)
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.)
Now what constitutes “good” in ELKM’s eyes? On that we\ll learn next class.
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