Don’t Stand Idol-ly By: Ekev 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever burned or broken a relic of a time in your life you came to regret? To what extent was such an action cathartic? To what extent was it counterproductive?

Our Torah portion encourages the Israelites to delete any sign of past idolatry:

The Pitch: “You shall consign the images of their gods to the fire; you shall not covet the silver and gold on them and keep it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared thereby; for that is abhorrent to the Lord your God. You must not bring an abhorrent thing into your house, or you will be proscribed like it; you must reject it as abominable and abhorrent, for it is proscribed.” – Deuteronomy 7:25-26

Swing #1: “It may come to pass that silver and gold which you have taken from an idol will bring you great profit in commerce. This may lead you to wonder whether your good fortune is not due to the power of the idol from whom you have taken them. And thus the gold and silver which you took from the idol may lead you into idol-worship.” – Sforno

Swing #2: “Abhorrence and detestation are emotions. They belong to another tradition, where argument depends on appeal to feeling. In the Hellenistic period the dominant reading could easily have been on these lines.” – Mary Douglas, Leviticus as Literature

Swing #3: “Rabbi Yohanan said in the name of Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai: ‘Whoever possesses a presumptuous nature is like one who serves idols; for it is said, “An abomination of the Lord is everyone that is proud of heart [Leviticus 16:5],” and the following passage reads, “You must not bring an abhorrent thing into your house.”’” – Ein Yaakov

Late-Inning Questions: To our commentators, what are the dangers of maintaining the memory of past idolatrous practices? Why is the idea of idolatry so much more loathsome to the biblical writers than most (if not all) other wrongdoings? What kinds of idols do we construct today? Are we doing enough to tear them down?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: We have updated links to our Adult Education offerings, which begin next week — click here for the details.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of idols, have the professional athletes attempting to compete during the time of COVID-19 earned even more of your admiration? Or are these endeavors only making these athletes seem more human?

Shabbat Shalom, and stay safe!