by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton
In the Bible, G-d often warns against idol worship and its dangers. But does this have any relevance today when most of us have better things to do with our time than to bow down to sticks and stones?
At the time when Abraham entered the world and for centuries thereafter, idol worship was rampant. It was not just the simple folk who would spend their time prostrating themselves before idols, it was the kings and leaders of the people who had made idol-worship a way of life and had taught it to the masses. Today, it is very difficult for us to understand what would drive an intelligent person to worship a piece of wood or pottery but unfortunately in today's society idol-worship of a different kind, but idol worship nonetheless, is still widespread. How so?
The core problem with idol worship and the reason that G-d so abhors it is because when a person bows down to an idol he is in essence stating that he gives higher value to that idol than to G-d. It follows therefore that holding any value higher than G-d's values is a subtle form of idol worship. The Torah is the book where G-d conveys His values to the world. The prophet Micha sums it up best when he says "What is good and what does G-d require of you? Do justice, love goodness and walk modestly with your G-d". G-d wants us to be moral people - do justice and love goodness; and He wants us to keep his mitzvoth - walk modestly with your G-d. These are the things that G-d values.
When a person assigns supreme worth to any of the other things that he values in life - at the expense of those things that G-d values, that value becomes an idol and he becomes an idol worshiper. There is nothing wrong with working hard but when a person places supreme worth on his business at the expense of his family, that business turns into a place of idol worship. When a person fools or cheats another with the excuse that "this is the done thing in today's world" he is demonstrating that to him the evils of today's society matter more than G-d's values of goodness and honesty. This unethical behaviour is a form of idol worship.
As with ancient idol worship it is the leaders who set the trends and it is their duty to determine whether their societies will be full of "idol worshippers" or whether they will be made up of people "who do justice and love goodness" and value those things which G-d sees as being supreme.