“‘Do not turn to idols, and do not cast metal gods for yourselves; I am Adonai your God.”-Leviticus 19:4
The Lord commands in verse 4 that Israel is not to “turn to idols”.
The phrase “Do not turn to” is a Hebrew idiom meaning to not call on or rely on someone or something.
In this context, when disaster strikes, the Israelites are not to call out to the power of idols or false gods for help.
The Hebrew word used for “idols” here is ELILIM.
It refers actually NOT to the carved likenesses of divinities but to the nonentity of the pagan gods.
The word is derived from “AL” meaning “not” in Hebrew.
But the term also probably puns on “EL” meaning “god” in Hebrew.
In this case, it is used in a belittling or derogatory manner that could mean something like “godlet”.
Personally, this command has been one of the hardest ones for me to obey.
I can be a pretty spiritually weak person.
Whenever I’m feeling distressed for whatever reason, I have the tendency to run to self-help books, escape into a bag of Doritos, or medicate my pain by watching pornography.
I would say failure to heed this command is pretty much the cause for every type of worry and mental illness we have.
Think about it.
Why are people always in such a mad rush to make and save so much money?
And without a doubt, money is the number one false god that people worship over and above the living God.
The usual reason people are so money-hungry is because they harbor these nightmare visions of possibly going broke and becoming destitute in their old age.
Ultimately, the only reason people worry and have anxiety is because of lack of trust in God that results in running to false idols to heal their spiritually broken souls.
A good way to find out what possible idols you may be worshipping in your life is to ask yourself the following question:
“What is the source of your self-esteem?”
What is that one thing deep down inside in your heart to which you attach your self-esteem and value as a human being?
Is it your bank account?
Is it that brand name company you work for?
Is it your pretty wife and your beautiful children?
Is it the fact that you’re over six feet tall and have a full head of hair?
Is your self-esteem connected to societal approval?
Is it connected to how much you can bench press?
Is it the fact that your blog post was liked by over 1000 people on Facebook?
And the opposite is also true.
Feeling sore and bitter over lacking any of the above can be a good indication of what false god you are worshipping.
Do you feel bad about yourself because you don’t have a large bank account, don’t work at a prestigious company, are not married to a hot wife or have a hot girlfriend, or that you aren’t a certain height etcetera?
Of course there isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with having a lot of money, marriage or a good job etcetera.
But when you make such things the be all and end all factor that determines your value as a human being, it will result in spiritual emptiness.
Because ultimately, those things can never satisfy, only the Living God can give you that satisfaction for which your soul hungers and thirsts.
I am reminded of the Rabbi who when asked “How can I get peace of mind?” answered as follows:
“There is only one way to achieve peace of mind. I know people who study Torah but have many worries. They still worry about the bills. They worry about their children, their marriage, and their health. The only way to save yourself from all of the worries and problems, and mental problems, and depression and so on is to understand that all of these problems connect to one root. Confidence or faith in God. Faith is like a muscle. The more you train your muscle, the more weight you’re going to be able to lift. The most important thing is confidence in HASHEM. That’s the first commandment. I am the God who took you out of Egypt. Without Me, you’re nothing. And you should not have any other gods but Me, because there aren’t any.
He then goes on to say:
“If you had 100% faith or confidence in God, YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SAVE MONEY FOR TOMORROW! Where did we learn this in Torah? In the story about the MANNAH that God dropped from heaven. HASHEM told them “I’m going to give you everyday what you need to eat but do not keep anything for tomorrow!”
CONNECTING THIS TEACHING TO THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Do not store up for yourselves wealth here on earth,
where moths and rust destroy,
and burglars break in and steal.
Instead, store up for yourselves wealth in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys,
and burglars do not break in or steal.
For where your wealth is,
there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body.’
So if you have a ‘good eye’ [that is, if you are generous]
your whole body will be full of light;
but if you have an ‘evil eye’ [if you are stingy]
your whole body will be full of darkness.
If, then, the light in you is darkness,
how great is that darkness!
No one can be slave to two masters;
for he will either hate the first
and love the second,
or scorn the second and be loyal to the first.
You can’t be a slave to both God and money.
Therefore, I tell you, don’t worry about your life