Idolatry: Avodah Zarah

Question

Looking at different explanations regards Avodah Zarah, different/various forms of idolatry, I tried to sum things up, I tried to get to get a definition out of it based on their common denominator.

Avodah Zarah (strange service/worship);

The adjective in ‘strange service’ has two senses. One is the strangeness of the object toward which the service/worship is directed, not the ‘proper G-d’ but other ‘gods’. The other refers to the method of service/worship, strange in the sense one serves in a matter that is strange to the Torah, strange to the ‘proper’ way of service.

[which in essence could imply the belief in certain idea, image or object].

So we got a strange method of worship one the one hand and strange object of worship on the other. Is this what Avodah Zarah is? Or is there more to it? And secondly I would like to know what drives or causes a person to do Avodah Zarah in the first place; i.e. what lies at the core of it? Is there a reason why it’s so hard to serve the ‘proper’ G-d in a ‘proper’ way?

6 months

Answers

  1. I think that your definitions are quite accurate! That is why the Talmud defines certain actions as being Avodah Zarah (for example, out-of-control anger) even though there are no obviously “religious” actions involved – and not just the classic description of worshiping something other than God.

    Where did Avodah Zarah come from? The Sages teach that it began in the generation of Enosh, Adam’s grandson. In that generation they started to worship the sun. The Rambam writes that they didn’t just get up one day and start worshiping idols. Rather they began by treating the sun with great respect as an ambassador of God and only later did they lose sight of God and begin to only “see” the sun.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team