One

posted in: AskRabbiMax | 0

Dear Rabbi,

Yesterday, my uncle — an evangelical Christian — engaged me in a theological conversation.  One item that continually arose was the idea that there is but one divine being, throughout the entire cosmos, period. I cited to him that the commandments state to “have no other Gods before [Him]”, expressly stating that there _are_ other deities, who covenant with other peoples.  I’ve also been told that Jews were permitted to worship other gods, provided they kept the Most-High in the chief position of reverence (having no other Gods before Him).

Could I ask you to shed some light on the subject?

Thanks,

Eric

Dear Eric,

Thanks for your question.

Can there be other powers in the universe besides the Infinite Being?

Does the sun exist? Yes. Do people worship the sun as a god? Yes. The fact that people worship things does not make them a real god, but in the mind of the worshipper it is a god. Therefore when the Torah says “Thou shalt not have any other gods before me.” This does not prove that any other gods actually exist but merely that people who worship forces other than god think of those forces as gods.

The fact that people worship all kinds of things do not make those things gods in reality, merely in the mind of the worshipper. Since people mistakenly do worship all kinds of things the Almighty felt the need to command us not to do that.

Some forms of idolatry are based on a mistake. Since the sun is a power that God created, it is a servant of God and yet still a power that we relate to. But the sun is merely a marionette puppet of the Almighty. He can make it hotter or colder or not exist at any moment. It has no independent power. So some forms of idolatry exist as an object but not as a god, and people turn the object into a god.

Other forms of idolatry are based on pure fantasy and don’t exist at all. The Greek gods were pure fantasy.

The Torah is clear, “Hear O’ Israel, the Lord thy God, the Lord is One.” There is only one all-powerful Being. This is the main point of Judaism as it has been understood for the past 3300 years or so. Other idolaters believed that their ram-god or whatever was the most powerful of all the gods. Judaism came to teach that there is only one God and the others either do not have any real power, or do not exist at all. The sun exists but has no real power. The Greek gods never existed at all.