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On the Persistence of Unwitting Idolatry Within the Jewish Community

June 16, 2014

The fact that even great rabbis would become unwittingly involved in idolatry should not come as a surprise. Mainstream Orthodox Jewish culture is rampant with some unfortunately heretical beliefs held by very many good Jews.

I have always wondered why certain segments of observant society like to satisfy “as many opinions as possible” when it comes to kashruth or Sabbath observance, for example, but they never take the strict views concerning things prohibited because of their connection to idolatry. There is so much going on in the frum world that would make Maimonides cry, but the masses rely on the common, lenient practice.

There are whole sections of halacha that have not been given their due attention, and that is why many are unwittingly becoming involved in idolatry, such as the worship of rabbis who have left this world (like the Rashbi) and in rejecting the divine opportunities to re-establish our holy nation in its homeland, which is the very antithesis of what the Torah is all about. If a certain approach’s logical conclusion leads to such things, it is inherently wrong.

A humorous story: Back in 2002, a rabbi told me that the summer Kollel was going to be studying tractate Avoda Zara, and I was excited because I had never studied the laws relating to idolatry in an official setting, and I was pretty certain most of my colleagues had never studied them, period. The rabbi quickly burst my bubble. “You know, the sugyas (sections) dealing with yayin nesech (wine used for libations) and bishul akkum, kashrus.” i.e., topics that deal with foods prepared by non-Jews, which, especially today, have little to do with issues of religion, theology, and heretical practice. At least Daf Yomi reviews the sections that describe what is idolatrous and what is not…

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