The Torah clearly and repeatedly prohibits any type of idol worship. In our Parsha, Moshe details the laws of a false prophet or dreamer who performs a sign or wonder, and based on it will say, “Let us follow other gods that you do not know, and we shall worship them.” The Torah instructs us not to listen to the prophet or dreamer – for this is a test that G-d places before us to see if we truly are devoted to Him and love Him. We will receive reward for overcoming such a challenge.
The Torah also speaks of a missionizer who speaks to either family members or other Jews trying to convince them to worship idols.
In both cases, if there were two male witnesses that warned the false prophet or the missionary that he is doing a capital offence, and he continues to prophesize or missionize in the presence of the witnesses, he is brought to the Jewish court of 23 or 71 judges to determine through the testimony of the witnesses that this indeed occurred. If he is found guilty, the Torah renders a sentence of death by stoning.
Seldom was the death sentence employed, since many details had to be met.
Within the fifth book of the Torah, Devorim, Moshe consistently warns the nation not to stray after idols and to destroy the many idols that were prevalent in land of Israel. It must be noted that until our Sages of the Talmud abolished the interest in worshiping idols, there was actually an inner lust and desire to worship idols.
Although the urge to worship idols was abolished, idolatrous concepts and teachings are out there and are being promoted. It is of utmost importance for every Jew to know our Torah’s position regarding our beliefs and directives.
Rabbi Yonoson Eibeshitz o.b.m. was asked if there is a hint in the Torah regarding the human form of a deity that would eventually emerge to become a widespread religion. He turned to a verse in this week’s Parsha. “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or daughter…or your friend… will entice you secretly, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods.”
Reb Yonoson pointed out, “Take a look, the Torah says your brother (a Jew) the son of your mother. The Torah does not say the son of your father… this alludes to the person who they claim is born to a mother without a father.
While studying the worldwide Daf Yomi ― daily page of the Talmud ― it is quite common that something will come up that has to do with the portion that is read that week or a holiday that is being celebrated. This week the Talmud discussed the laws of a husband who is ready to hand over a get ― a document of divorce ― to his wife and makes one of various statements and conditions which may validate or invalidate the divorce.
One of the conditions that the Talmud discusses is a feat allegedly attributed the human deity that people worship. It is when the husband says, “This is your divorce on the condition that you walk across the great sea.” The Talmud cites two opinions regarding this statement. One, is that since this feat cannot be performed, the condition invalidates the divorce. The other opinion, which we follow, states that the divorce is valid since the ridiculous condition is just a ploy the quarrelling husband threw into the divorce proceeding without really meaning it.
My father o.b.m. once shared with me the following magnificent idea in the name of Rabbi Avrohom Pam o.b.m.
The missionary the Torah speaks about in this portion, tried to convince someone to serve idols yet his goal to lead people astray to idolatry were not met, for after all, he was warned and brought to court and accomplished nothing. Yet, if he is found guilty, he is killed, for G-d considers one’s intentions to influence others to go astray and serve idols as if it was actually accomplished.
Reb Pam then turned to the contrasting situation, when one sincerely reaches out to a fellow Jew and shares and exposes him to the true belief in G-d and to the beauty of our Torah and Mitzvos. Even if this fellow Jew does not accept what he was taught, G-d considers it as if the person accepted it and rewards the one who reached out as if the one who he tried to reach continually does what he wished and taught him to do.
This amazing concept is based on what our Sages teach us that G-d’s reckoning of reward for our deeds far, far exceeds the punishment which He dispenses for our misdeeds.
Thus, if we see that for the sin of missionizing, G-d considers it as if it was a done deal and the person is punished for his intentions, surely when one’s intention is to show and expose a fellow Jew to the path of our G-d and our holy Torah, even if it is dismissed, the rewards for his efforts forever expand for G-d considers one’s good intentions as if they are done!