Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Making Sense of Idolatry

In this week's Parsha Rabbeinu Bachye discusses a truly fantastic concept. In fact, I remember that the first time I saw it I was almost in disbelief at what I was reading. When Moshe Rabbeinu is told that he is about to die, Hashem tells him that Klal Yisrael are going to go astray and follow foreign gods. (Devarim 31:16)

Regarding this idea Rabbeinu Bachye mentions that every nation and every land in this world is influenced by a mazal (celestial configuration). The exception to this rule is the nation of Yisrael and the land of Yisrael. These entities are not given over to the mazalos, rather, Hashem directly takes care of them.

Since this is the case, it is actually reasonable that, outside of Eretz Yisrael, various nations began to serve foreign gods. They mistakenly attributed true powers to the mazalos (obviously it is Hashem influencing the world through them) and over time began to serve them. Since this is a natural tendency, Hashem does not destroy or punish these nations for doing this so long as they are not practicing idolatry in Eretz Yisrael. To prove this point Rabbeinu Bachye cites from the example of the Kusim (Samaritans) who were an idolatrous people, yet, they were not punished for their practices until they were moved into Eretz Yisrael. (I assume that Rabbeinu Bachye is not stating that as individuals these people are not held accountable, rather, they are not punished as a nation in this world for their actions).

We, on the other hand, are held to a different standard because it is our nation that Hashem chose to be His. Therefore, there is never an excuse. Certainly when living in Eretz Yisrael the Jewish nation should only recognize its true dependence on Hashem and Hashem alone.

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