Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The human difficulty of creating a relationship with an abstraction.”

“The prophets protested against the pre-occupation with sacrifices even in Temple, as opposed to inward religious commitment, not because they were opposed to the sacrifices, but because this worship became more and more a focal point in itself.

They detach one from the perception of divinity and become a relationship to something materialistic – even though they be holy – and they become more and more detached from inward devotion.

The evil inclination of idolatry is the outcome of a conflict between the deep need for religion, faith, and serving God, and the human difficulty of creating a relationship with an abstraction.

This conflict, this tension, is what creates the temptation to satisfy the longing for the divine with something perverse – that is, by means of idolatry, cultic ritual, and devotion to something simpler and easier for human beings.

It is thus that the urge toward faith takes the form of idolatry.

Sometimes when a person finds that the existing forms do not suit him any longer, the urge is to create a new god, a new faith.

The Midrash has already said that quite often, when a gentile sees a new type of God that he has never seen before, he says, “This is a Jewish god.”

That is to say, they see another god that the Jews have created for themselves in order to satisfy their desire and inclination to serve them.”

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz