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  • Torah and Jewish Thought
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monotheism and morality, paganism and immorality


Rabbi Ari Shvat

Why shouldnt we worship other Gods? what does it mean other Gods? how to recognize what is fake gods?
The One and Only God who a thinking person can serve and emulate, is the Monotheistic, Perfect and Unlimited God, who has revealed Himself many times over the past 3,700 years: in the revelation to all Israel at Sinai, as well as to the prophets of Israel (accepted by Christians and Moslems, as well), and as seen in the history of the Jewish people. A God who is perfect, is inevitably our God, no matter what name you use, as opposed to any partial power (e.g. strength, beauty, etc.), which inevitably is not the ultimate Creator, but rather was created by Him. Mankind has already matured many centuries ago to reject paganism, and every intellectual will agree that it's ridiculous to revert to childish, immature beliefs in violent man-made gods, who not only were fake, but very counterproductive. Many Nazis ym"sh were neo-paganists, and we see where it got them! In addition, paganism was always inevitably connected with immorality. It’s not a coincidence that the epitome of idolatrous religiosity was human sacrifice! Because as soon as you have 2 gods, inevitably they’ll be fighting with each other, because each wants to be “king of the hill”. The problem with that, is that all religions emulate their gods (“imitateo dei”), so their followers will also justify their constant fighting. In addition, as soon as you have 2 gods, that infers that each of them is lacking something. That’s why mythology is comprised of the gods taking and fighting for that which they lack. In short, their gods are “Takers”, and that’s who pagans emulate and “idolize”. In contrast by monotheism, we believe in 1 God who, by definition, is perfect, and lacks nothing. Our “imitateo dei” is to emulate a God who is a “Giver”, not a “Taker”. Giving is at the top of our monotheistic agenda, and isn’t at all on the pagan program. In other words, the idolatrous world isn’t “innocent”. Polytheism isn’t just a “mathematical” problem (are there 2 or 20 gods instead of 1), but it’s a moral (!) problem. When Avraham was told to go to Israel and build a moral and just model nation to influence the rest of the world (e.g. Breishit 18, 19), and bring blessing to all mankind (ibid 12, 3), it was totally antithetical (opposite) to the violence of the accepted pagan practice, where it was accepted to murder one's wife, children and slave (and how much more so, to kill us foreigners!). This all changed with Akeidat Yitzchak where God dramatically commanded: "Don't lay a finger on your son. No more human sacrifices!". We couldn’t influence anyone in an atmosphere or culture where violence rules, and wants to force us to be their slaves.
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