06 October 2023

In the Spirit of Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

Whose Torah - God's or Ours?

21 Tishrei 5784
Hoshana Rabbah
Erev Shabbat Kodesh,
Shmini Atzeret/Simchat Torah

Devarim, chapter 31: 
[Hashem:]....Assemble the people: the men, the women, and the children, and your stranger in your cities, in order that they hear, and in order that they learn and fear the Lord, your God, and they will observe to do all the words of this Torah.

...When I bring them to the land...they will turn to other deities and serve them, provoking Me and violating My covenant.

And it will be, when they will encounter many evils and troubles, this song will bear witness against them, for it will not be forgotten from the mouth of their offspring. For I know their inclination what they [are planning] to do today, [even] before I bring them in to the land which I have sworn [to give them]."

[Moshe Rabeinu:]..."Take this Torah scroll and place it alongside the ark of covenant of the Lord, your God, and it will be there as a witness.

For I know your rebellious spirit and your stubbornness. Even while I am alive with you today you are rebelling against the Lord, and surely after my death!

...For I know that after my death, you will surely become corrupted, and deviate from the way which I had commanded you. Consequently, the evil will befall you at the end of days, because you did evil in the eyes of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.
"Through the work of your hands" - worshiping a god of your own making or observing a 'Torah' of your own creation. In other words - avodah zarah.

Avodah Zarah

The English word "idolatry" does not adequately convey the all-encompassing nature of the Hebrew avodah zarah. A more accurate translation is strange or foreign worship or service. By this we can understand one reason given for why the sons of Aharon HaCohenNadav and Avihu, were at fault when they brought eish zarah [strange or foreign fire] to the altar and died.

HKB"H was very exacting in the commandments He gave to Moshe Rabeinu and Aharon HaCohen about how He is to be served and worshiped. And we were very strictly warned against deviating from it either to the left or to the right! We are not allowed to 'improve' upon it with our own ideas and imagination. But, even so, HKB"H already knew some of us were bound to do it. Moshe Rabeinu said they have "rebellious spirits" meaning they are not simply misled and they are not open to correction. Generally speaking, they know better than HKB"H, God forbid.

Are idol worship and Avodah Zarah the same thing? The question, as phrased, is almost meaningless, since it does not define what is meant by idol worship. Truthfully, most people do not understand the extent of the prohibition of Avodah Zarah. They think that Avodah Zarah is limited to believing that some force other than Hashem decides our destiny. However, the prohibition of Avodah Zarah is far more encompassing. To quote the Rambam: “In the days of Enosh, mankind committed a major mistake…. This was their error: They said that, since G-d created the stars and the other cosmic forces with which to run the world, placed them in the heavens, gave them honor and they serve Him, it is appropriate to honor and praise them. They said that this is G-d’s Will – to honor that which honors Him” (Rambam, Hilchos Avodah Zarah 1:1). The Rambam proceeds to describe that this was the primary form of Avodah Zarah — not that any of those who worshipped the sun, moon or stars ascribed power to these celestial creations.

“With time, false prophets arose who claimed that G-d had commanded the people to worship specific stars or forces” (Rambam, Hilchos Avodah Zarah 1:2). The Rambam explains that this developed into extensive cults. “The primary commandment of Avodah Zarah is to not worship anything that was created, not an angel, not an extraterrestrial force and not a star… even when the worshipper knows that Hashem is the only G-d” (Rambam, Hilchos Avodah Zarah 2:1). We see that worshipping or performing any act of reverence to a force other than Hashem is included in Avodah Zarah, even when one accepts that all decisions are made by Him.
This makes the argument over whether Christians are guilty of idolatry and the absolution of Islam as a "non-idolatrous" religion moot. Both Jews and Gentiles are prohibited from creating a new religion for themselves...
...They [non-Jews] are not to be allowed to originate a new religion or create mitzvot for themselves based on their own decisions. They may either become righteous converts and accept all the mitzvot or retain their statutes without adding or detracting from them. (Source)
Creating a new religion, 'improving' or "adding" and "subtracting" from the Torah-and-halachah established order is strictly forbidden. It constitutes avodah zarah.
...you will surely become corrupted, and deviate from the way which I had commanded you. Consequently, the evil will befall you at the end of days, because you did evil in the eyes of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.
"The Evil will befall you at the End of Days"

(Reposted from 5 Tishrei 5779)


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