Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Moses and idolatry

“The absolute nature of the biblical opposition to idolatry should be stressed. The commandment I mentioned does not specify certain idols to avoid serving. Actually, it does not mention any single idol, though it could have mentioned well-known idols, those of the neighboring peoples and countries. It does not mention any idol in particular because it is interested in all forms of idolatry, whether extant or merely possible. It is not very difficult to create a new form of idolatry. “They invent idols every day,” says Midrash Mekilta of Rashbi (Exod 20:3, on “other gods”). The conclusion that one naturally draws from observations of this sort about idolatry is that everything on earth can under some circumstances become an idol. Moreover, the more admirable something is, the more natural, imminent, and significant is the danger that may be rendered an idol. A perfect person would be extremely admirable and thereby also naturally worshiped. Because the portrayal of Moses includes his superb qualities, the possibility exists of his being worshiped. Thus, on the one hand, the biblical portrayal of Moses risks Moses’ being served by the children of Israel and their descendants as an idol.

“Here is where the other elements of the image of Moses enter the picture. On the one hand, he is superb, but on the other hand, he is a human being of ordinary faults. If a person of superb qualities seems a natural candidate for idol worship, when his shortcomings are revealed, his candidacy for idol worship diminishes. The religious point of all the negative elements of the image of Moses, whether in the Bible or in midrash, is that, though Moses is an extraordinary human being, he should not be served as an idol, a false divinity. The mixed nature of the image of Moses, first in the Bible and then in midrashim, is justified.”—Asa Kasher, “Fighting Forms of Idolatry” in Jewish Bible Theology, pages 58-59

<idle musing>
I found this a fascinating insight. Show the feet of clay that all the glory goes to God. True humility; true devotion; truly rare!
</idle musing>

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