Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Maimonides on 'aboda zara (1:2): From God to idol worshipping

Of its 613 Mitzvot (commandments) the Tora dedicates 51 to the prohibition of idol worshiping or 'aboda zara. In His book Mishne Tora Maimonides devotes twelve chapters to the Laws of idol worshiping. 

He begins (Hilkhot 'abodat kokhabim 1:1) by explaining that idolatry owes its origins to a collective human error.  People thought that since God created so many servants to sustain life in this planet, worshiping those servants would please the Creator in the same way that a King would be pleased if his ministers are respected and praised. 

Maimonides emphasizes that at first people did not deny God's existence: they were convinced that they were worshiping the sun, for example, as a means to worship God.  

In Halakha 1:2 Maimonides explains the evolution (or decline) of this idea. First, there were false prophets (nebi-e sheqer). They would claim that God told them to serve His ministers, and He had ordered to build for them a temple or a shrine, and that it should be worshipped in this way, etc.  People, innocently, would follow these false prophets' instructions and worship the sun, the moon and the constellations "as if that was God's will". Next, these corrupt prophets designed images, idols and rituals and they told people that this idol will bring them success and that by doing such and such ritual they will be cured of their illness, etc.   

Soon, a different type of demagogues appeared: the kozebim, or deceivers. Unlike the false prophets the kozebim did not argue that "God" talked to them. They claimed that the sun or the moon or an angel sent by them revealed to them that they wished to be served by this or that ritual and by the offering of this or that sacrifice.  

Thus --with the exception of a few individuals who still preserved the idea of a one, invisible and Almighty God (Noah, Shem, Eber, etc.)-- humanity, led by opportunistic liars, lost track of the real God-Creator.    

The world would have to wait until Abraham Abinu to retrieve the true belief in God. 

            Why Europe has a problem with Israel?

                by Danel Gordis, from www.Prageruniversity.com