At our seder we describe slavery as both physical bondage and the spiritual confinement of idolatry. Psalm 115 focuses on those who worship false gods, the products of their own hands. With sarcasm, the Psalmist emphasizes that although idols may have ears, nose, hands, and eyes, they do not hear, smell, feel or see, adding- “Like them may their makers be- all those who trust in them” (verse 8). In contrast, the unseen God has power- “all that God desires, God does” (verse 3). The second half of the Psalm is liturgical, calling on God to bless those who have faith in God’s kindness and truth. And yet will add, “The heavens are the heavens of Adonai, but the earth [God] has given to the children of a mortal” (verse 16), a verse that has generated much commentary.
Why so much focus on idolatry? Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel astutely defined idolatry as treating any means as an end. Those who obsessively accumulate money or power, for instance, engage in idolatry in our own day. They fail to realize that human creations are only as valuable as the kindness and truth to which they are employed.
Join me for another of the Hallel Psalms that are chanted on Passover, Sukkot, Shavuot, Hanukkah and the start of a new month.
Todays study is dedicated to Howard Mirowitz