Avodah zarah is the Hebrew term for “idolatrous worship” or “strange worship” — or as I interpret it, estranged worship or worship estranged from Divinity.
Idolatry is not what we learned about in Sunday School – the worship of stars or stones or mountains or trees. Idolatry has its own weltanschauung. Idolatry is the worship of a part as if it was the whole. Idolatry is a pervasive way of thinking.
Idolatry segregates. Here God, there man; here the sacred, there the profane; here ritual, there ethics; here believing, there behaving; here me, there you; here my people, there humanity; here the law, there the spirit; here this world, there the other world.
The classic case of idolatry in the Torah is the worship of the Golden Calf. But idolatry is not a matter of a calf. It can be a place, an idea, an ideology, a country, a guru. Everything can be made into an idol. The Kotzker rebbe said that even a mitzvah can be made into an idol, even the Torah can be made into an idol. Idolatry means to deify a part of the world, a part of a person, a part of a people, or part of myself as if this were the whole.Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis (1925-2014) z”l
The Kokzker Rebbe said anything “of God” — bibles, good deeds, rituals, commandments — can be turned by humans into the separatist and ego-centric practice of idolatry.
Religious practices, religious beliefs, clergy-people, social media, gossip, politicians and political movements can all be made into idols that are worshipped above the dignity and welfare of other human beings.
Pride (egotism) is truly equivalent to idolatry.Tanya, chapter 22
Ego-self segregates with airs of superiority and exclusivity.
Rabbi Schulweis taught, ‘idolatry is splintered, either/or thinking.’ “She or he or I” are either worthy or unworthy, valued or devalued, visible or invisible, heard or unheard, selected or rejected.
Idolatry is worshiping the part as if it were the whole. Social stratification and inequitable social constructs are at the core of idolatry.
You Will Become What You Worship
Idolatry reveals what we truly value and love. Beneficial or harmful, healthy or toxic, cruel or compassionate, dividing or uniting, hurtful or healing…we will become what we idolize. We will become what we worship.
©2022 All Rights Reserved