Understanding the Torah

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Question: The following verse appears to give gentiles permission to worship the luminaries:

“When you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars--all the heavenly array--do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven” (Deut. 4:19 ).


Rabbi: This verse does not mean God apportioned the luminaries as deities for other nations, but to simply illuminate the earth. Meaning, "Don't deify heavenly objects that were simply created as a means to give light." The concept here that the luminaries are to serve all nations equally, may intend on dismissing any subjective importance that different nations project onto the luminaries, such as one nation deifying the sun and another deifying the moon. God counters such baseless subjective idolatrous projection by saying that He apportioned them to all nations, and did not differentiate the luminaries' purpose from one nation or another.

It also says, "all nations" which includes Jews. Therefore, the heavenly spheres and bodies have equal purpose for all mankind. And further, as idolatry is one of the Noahide laws, this verse cannot suggest otherwise, giving permission for the gentiles to serve the sun, moon, stars, etc.