May 26, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 26, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In this week’s parsha of Kedoshim, we read the admonition, “You shall not turn towards worthless idols, nor shall you make for yourselves molten deities,” (19:4). Rashi explains that, at first, these idols seem powerless and worthless. However, as we begin to turn to them, we start to respect them and they become deities in our estimation.

Looking back at history as described in the Tanach, we see that the attraction towards idol worship was very strong. The kings of Israel were drawn towards the dark side and idol worship was rampant. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (63b) described the strange ways that idols were worshiped, some in—what would otherwise be considered—disrespectful manners. We wonder to ourselves, “What were these people thinking?”

The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim) explained that the average idol worshiping person felt that Hashem was very busy. He did not get involved in the day-to-day operations of the universe. He, therefore, delegated the various powers associated with running the world to these idols. Therefore, the sun was to be worshiped for providing us with daylight and energy, etc. This followed the Roman model where Zeus delegated authority to the various sub-Gods who were then to be invoked when personal requests were being made in their domain.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 64a) related that the rabbis were finally able to tame the evil inclination towards idol worship. They tell the story of how this inclination manifested itself as a fiery lion cub that was captured and subdued by the sages of Israel. Today, we no longer have this desire. In fact, it can be difficult to imagine what it was once like.

However, we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that this desire has completely vanished. Perhaps, in modern times, it has taken another direction. Rabbi Eli Mansour points out that no one worships money as a divine being. Sadly, however, many people afford too much importance to it—seeing it as the ultimate value. There are some people who are preoccupied with money and the pursuit of wealth most of the time. They may sacrifice family time, time for Torah study or sacrifice their health in order to earn extra wealth and buy more and more luxuries. While our religion is not opposed to accumulating wealth, we are warned in this week’s parsha not to make anything other than God our highest priority. We need to keep money and wealth in its proper perspective, recognizing the other areas in our lives that are far more valuable and important.

Rabbi Nesanel Quinn—my former menahel at Mesivta Torah Vodaas—used to quote the verse from Tehillim (Psalm 115) which describes, “their idols are silver and gold.” He told us not to read that the idols are made of silver and gold. Rather, these people worship the actual silver and gold. Once they only value wealth to the exclusion of all else, they have a mouth but cannot speak. They have eyes that cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear. They become impervious to the needs of their friends and family.

Although classic forms of idol worship may no longer exist, may Hashem bless us so that we recognize our priorities in life. While we need money to pay our bills, we need to especially value our spouses, our children, our spiritual pursuits and the way we spend our time.


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles