“Mit’chila Ovdei Avoda Zarah Hoyu Avoseinu.” – Worshiping Power, Might and Strength

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Idol worship is based on serving the mighty and the strong. The greater strength one displays, the more people would worship him. And so Nimrod who was a mighty hunter, claimed he had godly powers and demanded that everyone worship him.

Rashi (Berashis 10:9) explains that “Hu hoyo gibor tzayid ” actually means that he was a master at entrapping and deceiving others with his glib tongue. He was the one who convinced people into building the “Great Tower” and also used his great oratorical skills to fool people into worshiping avodah zarah and rebel against Hashem. (Perhaps this is why they were punished by making them each speak a different language. This made it much more difficult for people to fool others.) We find that Esav also possessed this great skill of “ki tzayid b’fiv.” A sharp, conniving and deceitful tongue is a very powerful weapon and can be used to entrap and mislead billions. It is well known that Hitler y.s.v. was a master orator who was able to incite his crowd with great hatred for Jews. Many have followed in his footsteps, as do all priests and evangelists who use their great oratorical skills to deceive billions into believing their fraudulent religious beliefs. This, of course, gives them great power and wealth. They would convince people to worship G-d’s mighty angels in the false belief that these angels had the power to benefit and bless them. They charged a hefty fee for their supposed claims of miracle cures brought about with their holy waters and blessings that of course went straight into their own pockets.

Religion was always a good business to go into, since anyone with a glib tongue could easily scam others by claiming that god spoke to him and told him whatever he so desired. Go prove differently. If, by chance, his blessings came true, then he would claim that it proved that his god had performed the miracle and demanded a large donation for his church that he of course pocketed. If nothing happened, he could always place the blame on the subject’s lack of faith. There are always enough gullible people that fall for their nonsensical claims. Their motive is simply a desire for money and the power to exploit others. The amounts of money made by these evangelist preachers are enormous.

If one combines these promises with some very clever magical tricks, or convinces people of miraculous cures, then one could easily fool millions into believing just about anything. This may be why the Torah prohibits the use of all magic. Magic is an outright attempt by a magician at deceiving people into believing that G-d is not fully in control and that they can outwit Him. This is probably why the Rambam says that there is no such thing as black magic and it is all just an illusion done through clever trickery and deception, as is all magic nowadays.

The Egyptian priests were very good at this. After all, Egypt was the magical Disneyland of the ancient world. A good magician with a very skillful mouthpiece always could find employment in the king’s palace. People were great believers in the art of magic and were easily fooled by a skillful magician. Magic is an attempt by man to control the laws Hashem has established as part of nature through the means of spells, incantations or rituals. Hundreds of different sects such as Buddhists have advertised healing as an attraction.

Pharaoh who was also a master magician, demanded that people worship him since he held the power over the mighty waters of the Nile river and could get them to flow toward him. The very mighty and strong always claimed that they possessed godly powers and demanded that everyone bow down to them.

Little did people realize that their great might and power came from Hashem and was not of their own doing. It was Nimrod’s coat that he had stolen from Noach that had originally been made by Hashem for Odom, which gave him his great strength. Without the coat, he was no different than anyone else. It was Hashem’s Name that gave the “golden calf” its lifelike power.

The word for might and strength is “el” as found in B’rashis 31:29 “yesh l’el yodi” which means that I have the power. We also find “eilei Moav” which refers to the powerful of Moav. We find that the word “elohim” is used for anyone that possesses great power like in the posuk elohim l’Pharo’ which means Moshe will have Power over Pharaoh. This is why a judge too, is called “elohim” as in “elohim lo t’kallel” – a judge you should not curse. Angels, too, are called “elohim” for they too are given great powers by Hashem.

Yet the Torah warns us never to serve any other power and calls them “elohim a’cheirim.” This is what is meant by “elohei kol ho’amim el’lilim “- the gods of all the nations are “e’lilim“- referring to the mighty angels that they served. The Ramban says that they knew which mighty angels Hashem had appointed over them. While they believed in G-d, their priests convinced them that by praying to G-d’s mighty angels, the angels had the power to benefit them and so they called G-d “Eloko d’elohim. (See Ramban Shmos 20:)

Little did they realize that Hashem’s angels are no different than robots that can only do what Hashem Himself commands them to do. They are unable to either harm or benefit man unless they were empowered to do so by Hashem Himself. Praying to them is like praying to a robot.

And so while we all know that it is the sun that provides the power for plants to grow through a process known as photosynthesis, praying to the sun to shine stronger is like praying to a light bulb to shine brighter. Only G-d can make the sun shine brighter. All the stars and galaxies have been programmed by G-d and cannot deviate from their program any more then a computer can decide to deviate from the program that man has written for it. Even a computer that seems to show artificial intelligence can only do what it has been programmed to do. While it may seem to possess intelligence of its own, it is really deceiving. While to the uneducated it seems as if the computer possesses intelligence of its own it is just a clever illusion. And so all those exhibiting superhuman strength or power who claimed to be gods were just exhibiting clever deception similar to a magical trick or an optical illusion that could easily fool people into believing the impossible is true.

Perhaps the Egyptians served the Nile because it held the power over their food supply. Since it doesn’t rain in Egypt, they needed the Nile to overflow and pour its waters into the many canals that brought the waters to their fields. Without the river overflowing its banks they could not live. As we know, the tides are strongest on the fifteenth day of each Jewish month. It’s the moon that seems to control the tides. And so the Egyptian god seemed to show his greatest power on the fifteenth of Nisson. This is the very beginning of spring when things are just beginning to grow. It was then that Hashem showed them that their god was in His total power and could do nothing at all. All of creation receives its life and power from Hashem alone, and it is only Him that we must serve. Serving G-d’s mighty angels is considered avodah zarah.

A Jew must know that we are not permitted to bow down or worship any mighty power. A Jew must know that the world’s seventy wolves cannot harm us as long as we put our faith and trust in Him Alone.

In order to free ourselves from Pharaoh’s slavery we need the Torah to enlighten us on how to properly serve Hashem. This is why “ein ben chorin elah mi sheosek b’Torah.” Only one who studies the Torah and follows in its ways can be considered truly free. Only when man serves His Maker properly can he be freed from all physical enslavement. Hashem says “Avodai heim” – they are my servants and must not serve others. As long as we make sure to serve only Hashem, He will make sure that we will not have to serve any foreign powers.

Sometimes instead of serving the real Creator of Heaven and Earth we become enslaved to our own passions and desires. We begin by serving our own lusts, It is our pursuit of worldly pleasures that in turn enslaves us to Pharoh, in Mitzrayim. This is meant by “Avodim ho’yinu l’pharoh b’Mitzrayim – we were slaves to Pharoh in Egypt. When we serve other powers then these other powers begin to rule over us and enslave us. Peasach is the time to free ourselves from our self-induced slavery.