Idolatry From Two Sides

  • The idol worship which existed in the times of Abraham was different from what is called idol worship today.
  • Christianity is called idolatry by Abrahamic religions because in it is used images and forms of man in worship.
  • Can the Statue of Liberty be considered an idolatrous object? 

A recent article about iconoclasm and the power of religious objects got me thinking about Kashmir. In the world today there are two sides in conflict claiming that the other side is idolatry. These two sides are from the side of the Abrahamic religion and the side of Christianity and Hinduism.  In the middle of this conflict are innocent human beings who become the victims of terrorism.

In Kashmir there is a long time dispute both political, ethnic and religious between Pakistan Muslims and India Hindus.  Muslim religion prohibits building any statues of deities.  In Muslim temples there are also no forms or images. The Koran is very strict to prohibit connecting to anything but an empty formless space who is Allah hidden and revered. Hindu religion makes statues and worships deities through connecting to these statues.  In Hindu Bhuddist religion the statues are of Bhudda, Rama Krishna, Gurus who have reached God enlightenment and self enlightment.  Amongst these statues is often the statue of Jesus Christ who is revered by Bhuddist Hindus, and the Bha”i Center in Haifa Israel.

The Stalin Monument in Budapest was completed in December 1951 as a “gift” to Joseph Stalin from the Hungarian People on his seventieth birthday.

Judaism is a national religious faith which believes in God above the heavens who is without any form.  In Jewish law it is forbidden to worship God in any form and to make a graven image to use in worship.  The second of the Ten Commandments reads: Thou shalt not make for thyself any carved idol of anything in the heavens and earth; thou shall not bow before them or serve them.”  Muslim and Judaism are Abrahamic faiths which require circumcision as part of their covenant.

The Bible in Genesis: 10 tells the story of Father Abraham who grew up in the home of idol worshippers.  God told him to leave their home and their way and to go to the land of Israel.  The idol worship which existed in the times of Abraham was different from what is called idol worship today.  The people in the days of Abraham did not worship one God but worshipped many deities and their forms.  Like the Greeks and Romans worshipped the constellations, the people in the time of Abraham had the concept of many deities in the forms of animals, and human beings.  They made statues which they designated were Gods.  Abraham rebelled against their idolatry and broke these forms and statues. He was the first to preach that the one God the creator of the world is without and above any form connected to this world.  He began the way of prayer to God the unknown above nature.  God encouraged him to continue in this direction and promised to make him and his seed into great nations.  God promised to give to him and his seed the land of Israel.

It was difficult for Abraham to break away from the idolatrous culture of his age and he was confronted by many trials. In the Ethics of the Fathers it mentions that Abraham was tested 10 times and he withstood each of these tests. These ten tests are listed by Maimonides as:

  1. To leave the house of his father
  2. When entering into the land of Israel he was confronted with a famine
  3. In his journeys the Egyptians seized his wife Sarah,  and she was taken as captive by Pharaoh
  4. Abraham battled four or five kings and was victorious
  5. Abraham married Hagar after not having children with Sarah to give birth to Ishmael
  6. God told him to circumcise at an advanced age which could have been dangerous
  7. The King of Gerar took his wife Sarah as captive
  8. God told him to send away his beloved wife Hagar and his child Ishmael
  9. His son Ishmael who he loved became estranged
  10. God told Abraham to sacrifice his dear son Isaac on an altar

All these tests given to Abraham were tests of his faith in the One God.  The most difficult test was when God told him to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar which became a symbol of the complete self-sacrifice of Abraham for God the Almighty.  The Muslim faith also took the sacrifice of Isaac as a symbol and applied it to mean the sacrifice of Ishmael.  The Akeida when Abraham went to the holy mountain of Moriah to sacrifice his son became a lesson to all the children of Abraham not to fear to give their life or the lives of their children for the sake of God.  This also applies to be a commandment to the children of Abraham to fight against idolatry with complete sacrifice life or death.  Judaism and Islam have in their heritage Abraham as their example of faithfulness to God.

Abraham was a family man.  From his family he built nations principally Israel and Islam.  Abrahamic faith is religious national faith commanded to oppose any type of idolatry animal, man, heavenly, or earthly.  Abraham taught his way to the people of his times during his journeys.  However until Moses came into the world there was no organized religion in the world teaching Abrahamic faith.

The book of Genesis is mostly devoted to the life of Abraham and his offspring which were Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and his brothers who became the twelve tribes of Israel. The Book of Exodus begins with the life of Moses after the children of Israel came to live in the land of Egypt during a famine.  Moses was born from two Jewish parents Amram and Yocheved but was raised in the house of Pharoah. God was revealed to Moses in a different way than he was revealed to Abraham. The first revelation was at the burning bush.  God told to Moses in Exodus 4:1, I revealed myself to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the Almighty God but my true name and essence I didn’t reveal to them.  To Moses was revealed the True Name and essence of God which Abraham did not know.  Abraham was a saint with simple faith and trust in God; but he lacked the knowledge of God which was revealed to Moses.  Moses connected not only to the divine faith of his people Israel inherited from Abraham; he also connected to the Unity of God, the name of God which is peace.  Abraham was a warrior for God.  Moses was a man of peace.

There are two aspects of faith.  Abrahamic faith is the way of self-sacrifice opposing idolatry and for national spiritual unity.  The way of Abraham is the way of all men including family and national interests. Abraham was a warrior and his followers are warriors fighting against idolatry and sin.  There is another way of faith known to Moses which is for the sake of the Unity of God and the knowledge of his name which is peace.  A warrior has peace only after he has won the battle.  Moses knew of the eternal name of God which is peace.

Although Judaism is the religion which teaches the Law of Moses, the deepest secrets within this law which Moses understood and knew are hidden, primarily those secrets of the name of God in the written text.  Judaism is Abrahamic.  Only in the past eight hundred years was revealed a second part of Judaism containing the secret of the name of God written in the Torah.  The first Christians rebelled against the system in an attempt to become another nation separate from Israel connecting to the name of God in the written Torah.  However through making this connection it became necessary to make images in the form of man and the Messiah.  These secrets of God are connected to Adam in the Garden of Eden before the sin. Christianity is called idolatry by Abrahamic religions because in it is used images and forms of man in worship.  Also Hindu Bhuddist have gone in this direction after leaving its cultural God worship of cows and the river Ganges.

The idolatry of Christianity is not the same as the idolatry which existed in the world before Mount Sinai.  It has its basis in the Torah.  Nevertheless it is still called idolatry in Jewish law and the Koran. From the side of Abraham who did not know the secrets revealed to Moses, it is called idolatry.  From the side of those that know these secrets both sides are called idolatry because the ability of man to know God is limited.  Abrahamic faith will not change.  Abrahamic faith was the beginning of the development of faith in God including the secret of the name of God which is peace.  Abrahamic faith stresses fear of the Lord the Almighty.  The Love of God and mercy of God is added to Abrahamic faith through connecting to the Messiah of mercy.  However mercy without justice revealed in the faith of Abraham gives people permission to sin.  There are two sides to faith; both are idolatry on each side with a blemish of imperfection. Only God is perfect; and his name is perfect without blemish.

Moses knew that there is no perfect way.  Each side has its faults.  He instructed the Jewish people to go in the way of Abraham which would strengthen the Jewish people as a nation.  The other side he left to be developed later by other prophets which were Jesus and Hindu Bhuddist God enlightened and self-enlightened saints.

In the Torah idolatry is worshipping a statue.  Christians are told not to worship the statue but to worship God represented by the statue.  In Abrahamic law this is not enough. The children of Abraham are extremists like their father who broke the idols in the home of his father Terach.  Abraham went to the extreme to sacrifice his son on an altar.  Abrahamic faith comes from the heart without looking into deep meanings within the Torah with simple faith following the law.  There are many ways to permit bowing before the statue of the Messiah.  Jacob in Genesis: 30, Jacob bowed seven times before his brother Esau. Commentaries reveal that Jacob had a secret reason to accomplish by bowing before Esau.

After the giving of the Torah Moses broke the first tablets with the Ten Commandments when he saw the people worshipping the Golden Calf.  He then gave them Judaism following Abrahamic law forbidding idol worship in every way.  After the holy temple was built in Jerusalem by Solomon, there was a split in the nation.  Jerbeon Ben Navat a great saint and scholar made a new Israel by building two golden calves in Dan and Beth El.  Even though Judaism according to law is supposed to be free of idolatry in response to the building of the Golden Calf, Jerbeon built two Golden Calves a new religion in opposition of Judaism.  Judaism was founded in response to one way of idolatry, Israel of Jerbeon in Shomron revealed that there was still idolatry in Judaism and made two Golden Calves.  Every religion has in it idolatry.  There is idolatry on both sides.

Through Juana Yoga the Yoga of understanding which is called the most difficult path to truth and in the newest teachings of Judaism connected to the Zohar is revealed that there is idolatry on both sides Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Through the study of Juana Yoga and the secrets of unity of God and faith in the Zohar can be prevented terrorist attacks on synagogues, churches and mosques.

Americans worship the Statue of Liberty.  Communists worship the killer Stalin. Egyptian Muslims took off the nose from the idols of Egypt to permit them to be sold to the Brooklyn Museum.

There was once a plot by ISIS to blow up the Statue of Liberty.

Can the Statue of Liberty be considered an idolatrous object?  Maybe to those against freedom but those that believe in freedom believe in the holiness of the figure of the woman of liberty. Those people who are against the Statue of Liberty and consider her an idol do not belong in America.

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David Wexelman

Rabbi David Wexelman is the  author of five books on the topics of World Unity and Peace, and Progressive Jewish Spirituality. Rabbi Wexelman is a member of the American Friends of Maccabee, a charitable organization helping the poor in the United States and in Israel.  Donations are tax deductible in the USA.

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