The Torah: Against Deification of Man

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

Isaiah 44:13 rebukes man for his idolatrous creations:

“The craftsman in wood, measures with a line and marks out a shape with a stylus; he forms it with scraping tools, marking it out with a compass. He gives it a human form, the beauty of a man, to dwell in a shrine.”

Isaiah depicts the careful design of idols to be placed in shrines and worshipped. Man seeks the image of man as his god.

Isaiah 2:22 says further:

“Oh, cease to glorify man, Who has only a breath in his nostrils! For what is man considered?”

“By what” (bameh) is reinterpreted by the Rabbis as “bamah” (an altar, is man considered). Isaiah teaches that man has a strong desire to deify man, as if man is an altar to worship. Therefore he says we must cease glorifying man.

Moses warns the Jews in the same fashion (Deut. 4:16):

“Don’t act wickedly and make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness whatever: the form of a man or a woman.”

The prophets were wise, they understood man’s attempt to return to the infantile state: the dependent infant clogging to his parents to remove his fears and offer human security. But man is to mature, to recognize God alone as the only power in the universe. He created it alone, He does not need man to govern us all. We pray to Him alone, and reject all idolatrous forms, be it statues, deification of man in the form of Jesus, dead rebbe’s, or in attributing sainthood and infallibility to any human.