Switcheroo

Mishpotim

We find the Torah condemns “One who brings offerings to false gods shall be Cherem“. The word Cherem means destroyed; accordingly the Torah is sentencing him to death. This is to be expected, by serving idols he has committed one of the most heinous crimes possible – reinforcing his denial of G-d.

Question

The choice of word “Cherem” – destroyed  – is relatively unusual. Nowhere else in the Scripture is this word used to describe the forthcoming retribution for a specific transgression. Popular expressions that we find include ‘put to death’ ‘their blood is upon them’ ‘you shall stone’ but not destruction. It is only when sacrificing animals to idols that we find this language. Why is a harsher tone expressed for the one who brings these sacrifices?

Answer

We may suggest the following solution. There are two ways in which to serve idols. One in the specified manner for that deity; different idols have different rituals and protocols with which they are honored. For example, one who relieves himself on Peor, or throws a stone at Markulis. (Markulis was a Roman deity consisting of a heap of stones whereby worship was performed by throwing stones).

Two, worshiping in the same manner we serve Hashem. This includes slaughter, libations, prostrations and offering incense. It may not be the designated mode of conduct for this idol, nevertheless it incurs the death penalty 

King David said “from my enemies I am wiser” (Tehillim 109:98). The straightforward understanding is that he outsmarted his foes, but there is a homiletic approach to this statement. David was conveying that he became wise be observing their tactics. Our ultimate opponent is our evil inclination, and the way to combat this arch enemy is by observing his tactics. How does he get you? Where are your weak points? Once you have seen his strengths, you can employ those same methods to beat him.

It is certainly a terrible crime for a person to deify an Avodah Zora. Worse if he actually participates in the rites and service of idolatry. However this pales in comparison to the person who exports the sacred service of the Temple and applies it to Tumah. This is sacrilege in the worst possible manner, he is taking from the good and appropriating it to the bad. This demands his destruction. The Torah reserves is strongest language for those who manipulate the cherished for the detestable. 

Spotlight

The Jewish women owned copper mirrors, which they would look into when they adorned themselves. These mirrors were brought as a contribution toward the Mishkan, but Moshe Rabbenu rejected their donation because mirrors are made to inspire lust and temptation.

The Holy One, said to him, “Accept them, for these are more cherished than anything else”.

Why were these the most desirable item, treasured above all the other gifts?

Back in Egypt when the husbands of these women were weary from back-breaking labor. The ladies would bring their spouses food and drink and give them to eat. Then they would take the mirrors and each one would see herself with her husband in the mirror, and she would seduce him saying “I am more beautiful than you.” And in this way they aroused their husbands desire.

These women had taken something which is predominately used for evil and directed it to positive effect. They exported what is commonly used for the bad and appropriated it to the good. This, says Hashem, is the most cherished donation of the entire Mishkan.

2 Comments

  1. very nice indeed,; just taking issue with some of your wording. you write, “had taken SOMETHING” (what, the mirrors? lust? which?) that is PREDOMINATELY…. not predominately, but CAN be used for evil…
    Hashem has not created bad, it is the application that can be bad or good! Lehavdil, as Hamlet/Shakespeare also said “Why then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

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