Parshios Netzavim & Vayeilech
Only Skin Deep
Moshe stands up the last day of his life and delivers his final
message to the people. He implores them to follow Hashem’s ways with
love. To recognize his kindness and goodness, and not to succumb to
the seductions and temptations that will inevitably face them as they
enter the pagan land of Knan. He tells them when you enter the land,
and you see there dominations and detestable idols, those of wooden
stone, and those of silver and gold that they posses. Don’t let your
heart turn you astray from Hashem, your G - d...
Why did Moshe find it necessary to specify the material from which
the idols where made? Furthermore, why list as those of wooden
stones, and those of silver and gold? Is there any difference? Surely
an idol is an idol.
The commentaries explain, that as humans we naturally judge
everything by its appearance. It is exceedingly difficult not to be
influenced by the external façade and to recognize the underlined
essence of people or things. Moshe knew that the generation of the
dessert who had lived in the spiritual incubator of Hashem’s clouds of
glory for forty years would surely dismiss as nonsense the totem poles
and carved idols carved out of simple wooden stone. But what if these
self same practices were conducted in magnificent gated temples
attended by powerful well-dressed and dignified personages. What if
there and houses of were not to decrepit hobbles or people shabbily
dressed. But they sparkled with all the glitter and glamour of the
physical world. Could the people still maintain the strength to reject and
maintain their core beliefs?
This was the message that Moshe intended to convey. Whether
their icons are of plain wood and stone, or they are appealingly adorned
in silver and gold, they are just the same. They are detestable and
abominable, whichever way they are gilded.
The atmosphere in the operating room was extremely tense. The
young, beautiful girl in her bloom of her youth had been diagnosed with
a tumorous growth. Frantically the surgeon was attempting to point the
section pump to extra blood seepage. Perspirations poured down his
brow. His assistant, a young surgeon was watching all the activity
sipping on his coffee. What a beautiful girl he muttered. The surgeon
exploded, “You idiot, our head is involved in the sinews and blood
vessels, and you are busy with nonsense, where is your head? This
girl’s life in hanging in the balance.”
Society is constantly bombarding us with images of the external.
Let’s not be deceived. Beauty is but the handmaiden of substance. It is
important that we not be led astray by the allure of the gold and silver.
But stay committed and connected to our core beliefs. Not allowing
ourselves to lust after the external.
Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Naftali Reich and Torah.org.
Rabbi Reich is on the faculty of the Ohr Somayach Tanebaum Education Center.