Today I’d like to talk about the first part of the Second Commandment which says “You shall not make for yourself any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is the water under the earth…”
When our Creator handed this commandment to Moshe, the graven images were very obvious. They were carved out of wood and stone. For example. in Judges 16;23 we see the Philistines offering sacrifices to their god Dagon who was the father of the god Baal. In 1Samuel 5 when the Philistines had captured the ark which held the Ten Commandments and put it next to the statue of Dagon, we read how Dagon fell over on its face and later lost its head and hands. Our Creator was showing the people who had power and who didn’t. The Torah constantly warns us against worshipping false gods and replacing Him with them.
But what are the gods that we worship today. There are still many countries around the world that have their own gods in various forms. I don’t have to go into these but for us in our so-called western civilization, what are our gods? Who and what does battle with our Creator for the attention of His creation?
These gods begin with the Self…my Time… My comfort or comfort zones, My money, My possessions; My education, My ideas, My beliefs, My religion, My health or my sickness, My Sexuality, My Family. Today we worship beauty, talent, drugs, science and medicine above God. These are all part of God’s creation, to be enjoyed in moderation which allow us to live a full and rich life. They were not ever meant to replace Him. When we do, there are consequences as we are seeing today…anti-Semitism is on the rise; drugs are far too easily accessible; government control abounds; money is losing its value; sexual deviancy is the norm; people are depressed, anxious, even paranoid. Life as we knew it even one year ago has changed dramatically. It did not happen overnight rather it has taken years. Why, because we simply do not learn from history. When we forget our past, we are doomed to repeat it. The battle that we see raging in the world is a repeat of what we went through in Egypt before Pesach. We are in a spiritual war between the gods of the world and the God of Israel. How do we win, how do fight this war? God told Zerubbabel…” It’s not by power; it’s not by might, but by my spirit says the LORD”.
What did our God ask us to do at Pesach? He told Moses to tell the people to kill a young animal from the flock, a lamb or a goat and put the blood on the doorpost of our houses. If we had been there would we have been obedient? Our God isn’t looking for our sacrifices; He wants us to be obedient to him for our own good.
Our God created us with the ability to choose – it’s called free will. He placed within us the yetzer hatov, the inclination to do good, and the yetzer harah, the inclination to do bad. When we choose to build up our yetzer hatov, the good, by learning what His Commandments are and living by them, we make the right choices and subsequently we can feel better and better about our place within His creation. It involves an act of the will, but this causes us to struggle because with freedom, comes responsibility. It’s hard to assume responsibility. It’s easier to let others tell us what to; then we can blame them when things go wrong. With or without realizing it, many people choose illness, physical, emotional or mental because the responsibility is too heavy a burden for them to carry. They forget that the burden is not theirs alone but belongs to the Creator who partners which us along the way. We will fail, time and time again, during this journey of life and when we do, our nature takes over and we want to quit, to run away, to hide but remember this, each failure creates an opportunity for us to make it right and start again.
For when we do, when we deal with our issues, we begin to walk the path of freedom. That is true Halachah. But man cannot set us free; only God can. No political or religious system without the Creator at the helm, can free us. They will only enslave us. Our people got into trouble when we asked for a king. God told Samuel to tell the people what the king would do when they preferred a human king instead of God as our king. We would have to give him our sons and daughters for service instead of being free.
The world wants us to rely upon in its variety of false gods…those things that I mentioned earlier but we’ll lose our soul if we do; if we can turn our focus toward the One, Almighty God, and learn to trust Him, to obey Him and to be available to Him with everything we are and everything we have…can you imagine what a wonderful world it would be. Let’s take this time, especially before Pesach to examine our hearts and ask God to show us what gods are keeping us away from coming clean before Him.