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Friday, August 11

The Weekly Shtikle - Re'eih

This week's parsha contains a number of sections related to various types of avodah zarah. Nowadays, it is very difficult for us to comprehend the strong inclination towards idol worship that existed in those times. This is because, as the gemara (Sanhedrin 64a) explains, the yeitzer hara for avodah zarah was destroyed during the early years of the second Beis HaMikdash through some supernatural process. However, certain nuances in the pesukim offer us an insight into avodah zarah which perhaps may help us combat the pseudo-avodos zaros of our day.


First, the Torah warns us (12:30) "lest you inquire after their gods, saying: 'How do these nations serve their gods? I shall do likewise.'" The Torah is clearly warning against the dangers of what might be disguised as "intellectual curiosity." One is only permitted to study the ways of the nations if it is clearly done in order to know how to answer their challenges or the challenges of another who is arguing their point of view. To simply explore their gods and their worship out of curiosity is unfortunately where it all begins.


The Torah then proceeds to discuss three different examples of how idolatry might come to infiltrate the community. First, there is the false prophet. Then there is the meisis, the friend or family member who privately attempts to lure another towards idolatry. Last, we have the city which turns as a whole towards other gods. In each case we find a common term used by the seducer:  "Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them." Again, we find that the idolater is always looking to appeal to the curious side of his victim. He is not attempting to lure you into worshiping a deity with whom you are somewhat familiar. He uses the mystery of the unknown to pique your interest. Throughout these sections, the Torah is repeatedly reminding us to keep our intellectual curiosity in check.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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