“And you saw their abominations and their detestable idols . . .” (Devarim/Deuteronomy 29:13). The Torah talks about seeing idols but says nothing more about it. What are we to make of this?
The parsha for this Sabbath is a double one: Nitzavim-Vayeilech. In Nitzavim, Moses reminds the Children of Israel about the covenant with G-d, to shun idolatry, that they will transgress but then repent and G-d will redeem them, that the Torah will always be near to them, and the famous charge that between life and death they should choose life.
In Vayeilech, Moses informs the Children of Israel that his death is imminent, appoints Joshua as the new leader, reminds them that G-d goes before them and that they should not fear their enemies, and commands the people to fear G-d and observe the Torah. G-d appears to Moses and tells him the people will rebel and turn to other gods so he must teach them a song by which they can redeem themselves, which Moses does. Then Moses finishes writing the Torah and gives it to the Levites.
Back to the idols. It is difficult for us to appreciate just how captivating they were to people living during Biblical times. The idea of praying to something made of wood or stone makes no sense.
But perhaps at some time you have been morbidly fascinated by something harmful. You knew what you were seeing was repugnant but you could not look away.
Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveichik, the Brisker Rav, commented that human nature is such that at first you may be repulsed. But the Torah’s warning to turn away should still be heeded. Everything you see makes an impression on you. The initial negative feeling may eventually give way to desire.
Better not to tempt or desensitize yourself. Train yourself to turn away from idols and abominations by turning to family, friends, beauty, and G-d.
Question – How do you create a bulwark against negative influences in your life?
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Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
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