Today is DAY FORTY, which makes FIVE WEEKS and FIVE DAYS of the Omer
Torah for Today
Rabbi David S. Widzer
As we approach Shavuot, the holiday that commemorates the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, we are basing our day-by-day teachings on each of the Ten Commandments.
Commandment #2: “You shall have no other gods besides Me. You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, or any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, Adonai, your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
In its heyday, the TV show “American Idol” was a pop-culture phenomenon, garnering massive ratings and launching musical careers. It also served as an excellent set induction for Jewish educators and rabbis to connect with Confirmation students about the meaning of the second commandment. I’d ask my 10th grade students, “What does it mean to be an idol? What does it mean to idolize someone?”
The answers from the teens were insightful and far ranging. They’d say: it is one thing to hold someone up as an example or as an inspiration, or to view someone as a hero for an action they took or a cause they embraced. It is a different thing to be so enamored of a person that one is unable to see to any flaws, is willing to overlook any negative attributes, or is so smitten that any objective evaluation is impossible. The students agreed: it is good to have role models or icons to emulate; it is bad to think them infallible and follow them blindly.
When I asked the students what our modern day idols might be, what we see worshipped in society, it was easy for them to generate a list: money, fame, status, the biggest houses, the fastest cars, the sexiest fashions, the newest fads. We went a little deeper and added the idolization of achievement, the push to be the smartest student, the strongest athlete, the winner-at-all-costs. We worship the fastest technology, the highest paycheck, the biggest accomplishment at work or in society. We “bow down to them and serve them,” exactly what the second commandment says not to do.
And then with the students we’d explore: what if, instead, we valued kindness? Collaboration? Decency? Love? What if our idols today were those who helped people, those who took care of others, those who healed others, those who worked for a better world? What if we idolized the goodness that is inherent in human beings created in God’s image? And we agreed: that would be the worship that God wants and is pointing us toward with this second of Ten Commandments.
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