- Moshe Ben-Chaim
- Question: What exactly is idolatry?
- Response: I would have to define it in accordance with a
Rabbi's explanation: "Relating to G-d through methods foreign to
G-d's prescribed modes of worship."
- The source, or psychological need which acts of idolatry strive to
satisfy, are primal in nature.
The instinct in specific I refer to is the need for an authoritarian,
or parental being.
- To elaborate, when one is an infant, he views his parents as
"super" types of beings. As parents feed, hold, care and
nurture the infant, a child develops a strong bond and need for this
relationship. As an example of how powerful the need for this
attachment is, we may see a lost child with the most fearful look on
his face. The fear of having "lost" the parent is a dreadful
one, and runs very deep.
- Now, what happens as a child grows into an adult? What happens to
this need? One of two things may occur;
- 1) The proper response is that the now grown adult will abandon his
view that the parent is no more capable than he. He then moves on with
mature concepts of parents. Or, 2) The physically grown adult
will not abandon his overestimation of the parents being superior. He
wont accept his parents are as he is; human, limited, and frail. What
then happens is, this conflict of one realizing his parent's
shortcomings, and his strong desire for psychological guidance, will
produce projections of authority onto other objects or beings.
He will seek replacements for his parents. This in short is the cause
for all forms of idolatry. Throughout history we see that people have
worshiped stars, animals, totem poles, and other objects non deserving
of any such elevation. Nonetheless, these objects maintained high
esteem in the eyes of those in need due to the aforementioned reason.
- Among the many expressions of idolatry, the Torah includes
enchanters, fortune tellers, and other advisors. The Torah categorizes
all such projections as false, and as idolatrous. It is against
reality, and it is the most harmful of sins one can commit, as one
forfeits the most crucial kernel of knowledge one can attain, i.e., There
is One G-d, no other object or force of nature is to be elevated to
- When one believes there are forces outside of G-d, his entire
concept of G-d is corrupt. G-d by definition must be The Singular
Existence and Sole Cause of Creation, and control of laws and matter.
Assuming this is not true, or even adding gods onto G-d, is a complete
denial of G-d's Unique Nature.
- Therefore, idolatry - the projection of powers onto anything
except G-d - ends up to be not only incorrect regarding the
projected object, but the worst sin, as it is the abandonment of the
true idea of G-d.
- I would add that the error made in projecting powers onto physical
objects is an internal contradiction: If we hold that physical objects
are created substances, this means that they have no power over
themselvess, as they were brought into existence by something other
than themselves. To then claim that these very created objects can
control anything is a contradiction, and it's the best argument for
disproving any assumed powers.