When reviewing the Ten Commandments, many of us probably skim the second commandment, the one about idols. That was a biblical commandment for biblical times, right?
Yet because breaking it had such severe consequences — it was one of three commandments for which one is to choose death rather than break it and since the Midrash says, “The law against idolatry outweighs all other commandments” it demands our attention.
When thinking of idolatry, we might think of a statue of some sort. Yet one definition of idolatry is: blind or excessive devotion to something. Just look around. We are ensconced in idolatry, just as, in the 11th century, Bahya wrote, “People made their bellies their gods, their fine clothes their law, and their home maintenance their ethics.”
In 2009, the journal Sh’ma had a column entitled, “Avram’s Father’s Idols” and each month, a different contributor would write about the idols in their family. Here are some of them:
• The idol of family, when a parent has an idea that the family should be just so — without room for creativity and exploration.
• The idol of rationalism, which left no room for spirituality.
• The idol of that ivy league college without whose degree, one became the black sheep of the family.
• The idol of work, to which so many of us prostrate ourselves with our backs to our families.
Ralph Waldo Emerson warns: “…That which dominates our imagination and our thoughts will determine our life and character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we are worshipping, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”
Every idol demands sacrifices (S. Levin). What do you sacrifice to your idols? When will you have the strength of Abraham to smash those idols?
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)