Noahide Seven Commandments Torah classes
© 2017 by Rabbi Zvi Aviner
Know your CREATOR, know yourself and know the difference
“At the Beginning,ELoHiM created the Heavens and the Earth….”
1: An inventory check
We use the first two of Moses’ Ten Commandments as a platform for studying IDOLATRY.
The First, positive Commandment presents the Speaker’s Names and Attributes
The Second, negative Commandment presents the idols.
The First Commandment says:
1. “I Am (His Essence)
2. “The Lord (YHVH) your G-d (ELoKiM) (His Attributes)
3.” Who took you out of Egypt Land” (His deeds, kingship)
In this Commandment, the Speaker expects us to KNOW and ADDRESS Him by these Names and Titles. It would be rude, if not a sin, to ignore or distort them or mispronounce them, or replace them by other Names.
Without knowing these names, you would not comprehend the Torah and its messages.
So who is ELoHiM?
Moses does not elaborate on this in the Ten Commandments. He assumes that the reader is already familiar with the Names from the Book of Genesis. There, in Chapter One, the Torah introduces the Names ELoKiM and Y-H-V-H, besides the concept of the CREATOR’S Kingship. Hence it explains the entire First Commandment of Sinai.
As it turns out, the same Genesis Chapter One does also introduce IDOLATRY to its kind, with the list of all possible idols. Hence it explains also the Second Commandment of Sinai.
So let’s go now to the Beginning of the Torah:
2: Who created the world, and for what purpose?
Suppose Moses or Noah comes to life and stands at a busy corner in one of our cities. In his ancient attire and long beard, he looks weird in the eyes of the passing by. Moses approaches them at random and asks:
“Excuse me sir, lady, are you familiar with the Bible?”
“Of course!” they say, giggling. They take him for a clown.
“If so, would you answer for me a most basic question: Who created the world, and for what purpose?”
Many shrug and walk their way. Others are intrigued by his question and say:
“Of course, G-d created the world, who else?”
“Who?” Moses repeats, as if astonished.
“G-d!” They laugh, “it says: ‘In the Beginning, G-d created the Heavens and the Earth…” (Genesis 1: 1)
“If so,” Moses askes, “for what purpose did He create the world?”
“Purpose?” the people are puzzled. “The verse does not say this…”
“Yes, it does!” Moses insists. The people try some answers, like:
“For the Messiah…”
“For the prophets…”
“For good people…”
But Moses disapproves. Tears run from his eyes. The most important basic message of his books has been wiped out by mistranslation.
So according to Moses, for what purpose did the CREATOR create the Universe?
3: The JUDGE, ELoHIM
The answer lies in the Hebrew version of the text that says:
Where ELoHiM is the Hebrew term for “The All Mighty JUDGE,” (Rashi, Exodus 20:1, explaining the Ten Commandments.)
Oh, I hear you saying, you are too particular about your Hebrew! This is just a semantic issue! What could be the difference between the terms “G-d” and “ELHM?”
But the difference is enormous. The title G-d infers reverence and awe and is holy. But the term ELHM infers that THE WORLD WAS CREATED BY THE JUDGE, TO STAND A JUDGMENT.
Hence the Infinite CREATOR, who is above our concept and no name can contain Him, , elected to create the world while sitting on the “Throne of Judgment.”
In other words: The Infinite, nameless CREATOR ‘wears’ different ‘hats’ on different occasions (Midrash). Thus he has infinite Attributes. At CREATION, Moses says, He wore the hat of the All Mighty JUDGE, and created the world for JUDGMENT.
Note that the Hebrew ‘ELoHiM’ may refer to any judge, even a human judge.
Like in the verse: “ELoHiM in your midst you should not curse, nor should you curse a prince in you nation…” (Exodus 22: 27.)
Here the Torah forbids the cursing of “elohim, a human judge, as well as a “prince in your nation.”
Why creating as a Judge?
Tradition (Kabala) explains that the Infinite CREATOR would have created our Universe to shower on it endless, unconditional Love, Compassion, Mercy and Joy. He would have done this without asking anything in return, without any judgment.
But in His Wisdom, He chose to create this Universe in a way that its inhabitants would ERN His favor, by His Judgment. This is why He set on the Throne of Judgment when He created our Universe.
Note that the chapter starts with “AT THE BEGINNING, ELKM created the Heavens and Earth.” This implies that LATER the Infinite, nameless CREATOR would wear another hat, would choose another of His other many Attributes, the Attribute of MERCY, to join in.
Hence our life is a long chain of trials, one leading to the next. We are born to withstand those endless trials, with no escape. We actually grow spiritually by winning our trials.
The idea that we are born to withstand a judgment can change people’s life. Here is a true story: A young (gentile) person who lived a different life style asked me: “Doc, I’ve heard that you teach the Bible. Would you give me one good message?”)
So, I said: “Do you know that the world was created by All Mighty JUDGE, ELKM, for Judgment?”
“For judgment? Not for Love?” He asked, bewildered. A few days later he approached me again: “Doc, what you’ve told me is indeed the most profound message of the Bible I‘ve ever heard!”
He later left for a different city. I’ve heard that he changed his lifestyle.
The world on trial?
But how can the World stand on trial? You may wonder. Does it possess a mind and a Free will?
The answer is that every item in Nature, big or small, stands before Him in a trial within its realm. We humans may never comprehend the trial of the stone or the mosquito. After all, it is held between the CREATOR and His creatures.
We can also say, that at least all items in Nature must comply with the Natural Laws set up by the CREATOR, ELoHiM. Any deviation would incur harsh retribution. Just a small change in the size of the atom or the charge of the electrons, and you would see a different Universe. Our Universe is “elegant and precise,” and must abide by ELKM’s Laws.
Man, of course, is included in ELHM’s trial, as part of Nature. We too must comply by His Natural Laws. But since Man is a more complex, out trial must also be more complex than that of the mosquito.
4: We are not alone
The idea that the World stands on JUDGMENT sound tough and alarming, but it also sends positive message, that someone is watching us, day and night, is interested in our actions, writing down our deed in His Book for our Judgment. Hence, we are never alone.
Rosh Hashanah Holiday
A ‘proof’ for the notion that the World was created for Judgment comes from the ancient holiday, the Rosh Hashanah. It is the annual Anniversary of CREATION, the Jewish New Year. Unlike any other New Year celebrations of other cultures and faiths, the Jewish New Year is a solemn day of Judgment, where all creatures, small or big, pass before ELKM’s Throne like in Genesis, and He examines each one and determines its fate for the next year.
Here are some quotations from the Rosh Hashanah’s prayer book:
“Today, is the day that the world was conceived...today you place all creatures on trial...”
“Today, every creature passes before you as herd before its shepherd, while you count and remember each one and decree its judgment for the next year…”
Note that the Name ELoHiM is written in the Torah scroll as ELHM, without vowels. (This is true also for YHVH.)
What are ELKM’s ways of Judgment?
We can derive them from the rest of Chapter One, that describes the Six Days of CREATION.
Here are some points:
1. He judges every Day
From the story of Genesis, we see that ELKM judges each Da. At CREATION, He passed His Judgment at the end of the Day, sometimes twice a Day (besides the Second Day), saying that “it was good.” If a creature was found not good anymore, ELKM would eliminate it.
2: ELoHiM pursues the Absolute Justice and Truth
ELoHiM is a truthful Judge.
His nickname is TRUTH, ‘emeth.’
His signature is ‘TRUTH,’ emeth.
Thus at the cemetery we acknowledge the “truthful verdict” of ELoHiM by saying: “Blessed is He, the Truthful JUDGE.”
3: ELoHiM pays “Measure for Measure,” (Midah for Midah)
By observing Nature, we can verify that the creatures are treated with Absolute Justice. They inflict pains, only to suffer pains. They eat, only to be eaten. Hence the JUDGE pays back “measure for measure,” not more and not less.
In a National Geographic’s video, a small snake was seen strolling along a river’s shore, looking for breakfast. On its way, it snapped and swallowed numerous small frogs, alive. You could discern their tiny bodies as they went down still twisting in the snake’s belly. The snake continued its deadly path with insatiable hunger.
Then the snake passed by a huge frog that had been patiently waiting for it. With unbelievable fast movement, the frog cut off the snake’s head then swallowed it, with all the little frogs still twisting in the snake’s belly. Seeing this you would I jump and cry: “ELoHiM’s Hands are here, measure for measure!”
Note that vegetarian is included in this judgment. One eats them, to be later eaten by other creatures. Who can value the life of a vegetable against the life of an animal? Only the CREATOR can do this!
4. ELoHiM’s judgment is harsh
ELoHiM rules by the iron fist, with no MERCY. Thing He deems ‘not good’ are eliminated.
For example: The Torah says “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It sounds harsh. But one should pay attention to the SPEAKER of these words. As it is explicitly said, the stone Tablet were written on Mt. Sinai by “the fingers of ELoHiM” (Exodus 32: 15.) They represent the ABSOLUTE JUSTICE. The (human) judge should say to the perpetrator: the only way justice is implemented is to gauge your own eye or knock out your own tooth.
This would reflect the Judgment of ELKM. But the Torah Court would also add: But the Attribute of Mercy is telling me otherwise: to punish you monetarily.
5: ELKM created the Six Days as a Tyrant
During the Six Days of CREATION, before making Adam, ELHM created things by issuing ‘orders’ without consulting anyone. He commanded, and things happened.
This changed, as we’ll see, before the making of Adam. To offer Adam a Free Will, He descended from the High Pedestal of Absolute JUDGEMENT and became a King Who Consuls, who listens to His subjects.
6: ELoHiM is like a builder
During the Six Days of CREATION, ELoHiM created the Universe as a Builder of a Six Floors Building. Each Day is a Floor. At the end of each Day, the Builder checks the last Floor He has built, whether it is ‘good’ or not. If the Floor is good, the Builder would place another Floor on top of it. If the Floor is not good, ELHM the Builder would eliminate it to nothingness. This checking occurred Day after Day till the end of the Sixth Day, WHERE HE ASSESSED THE ENTIRE SIX FLOORS BUILDING.
7. ELoHiM is Wise
The Universe is full of Wisdom. It is revealed to us by studying Nature and theoretical physics. Adam’s mind CAN grasp this Wisdom, because ELKM consulted His Wisdom and made us (as we’ll see.)
In the verse “At the Beginning,” the Hebrew word Be-reishit can be read as “in his rosh, head.” Hence the notion that He used His Head or Wisdom to create the Universe. t
8. ELoHiM is precise
ELoHiM’s JUDGMENT is precise, measure for measure. He also created the World with precision. His Natural Laws are exact. Our Universe, modern physics says, is ‘elegant and precise.’
9. ELoKiM is the Ultimate Provider. He is KIND.
Merciless and Harsh He is, yet Kind. He is the Ultimate Provider who takes care of all the creatures and provides them with the necessary talents to thrive in their habitats. Thus
1. He gave the vegetation 0f the Third Day the talent to synthetize the Sunlight and convert it to biologic energy
2. He gave the fish of the Fourth Day gills to breath and fins to float and swim in the water and digestive system to live on vegetation
3. He gave the birds of the Fourth Day, wings to soar up into the sky and catch fish
4. He gave the crocodiles of the Fourth Day the talents to escape the water into dry land, and teeth to catch the birds
5. He gave the cattle of the Sixth Day the talent to digest vegetation
6. He gave the beasts of the Sixth Day he talent to prey on the cattle
7. He gave the crawling creatures of the Sixth Day the talent and tools to bite and swallow other creatures
8. He gave Adam of the Sixth Day the tools and talents to thrive in our habitat, Earth. In His Kindness He also tells Adam how to win our Judgment.
10. ELoHiM ‘fills’ the ‘heart’ of Nature
Where is ELKM? Is He above, or below?
In the miraculous Chapter One of Genesis, the Name ELoHiM appears 32 times in the Six Days, denser than in any other chapter of the Torah. (He appears 3 more times in the Sabbath, making it 35 times, which is the number of prototypes of works forbidden on the Sabbath.)
As it turns out, the number 32 s written in Hebrew as Lb (where ‘a’ is 1, ‘b’ is 2, ‘c’ is 3 and ‘L’ is 30.) ‘Lb’ means ‘heart.’ Hence ELoHiM dwells at the heart of Nature, sustaining it as the heart sustains the body. He is INSIDE everything; nothing exists without Him. The is the Place which carries the Universe, not the other way around. There is NO “empty spaces” without Him.
Note that ELKM is referred to in Kabala as “One Who Fills the World.”
In contrast, the Attribute of MERCY (YHVH), on whom we are about to learn, is called: “The One Who Surrounds the world”. She ‘surrounds’ even ELKM and therefore OVERRIDES Him.
A hint: the numerical value of ‘ELoHiM,’ 86, is the same as for ‘The Nature,’ Ha-teva. This is one of the many insights of the miraculous Hebrew language.
“And the wind (spirit?) of ELoHiM was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2.)
11. ELoKiM’s judgment is equal, penetrating everythingAs it is said:
This infers that
1. His Throne of Judgment is hovering over waters (A theme used in Rosh Hashanah)
2. He uses Water as a whip, like in Noah’s Flood
3. His Justice penetrates everything, like water.
4. His justice is even, like water’s surface, and equal to all. He recognizes no royalty and no privileges.
12 ELoHiM weights our merits on His Scale
ELHM weights our deeds on His scale:
Our merits are placed on one side, our sins on the other.
The tilt of our scale determines our fate for the next year.
13: Righteousness and wickedness
When the scale tilts in our favor, we are RIGHTEOUS in His eyes.
When the scale tilts against us, we are SINNERS or WICKED in His eyes.
Hence the terms “righteous” and “wicked” (Tzadik and Rasha) express our verdict in ELKM’s court, rather than our character (Maimonides) (YHVH would assess us differently, emotionally.)
’ELoKiM‘ (ELKM) instead of ELoHiM
ELoHiM is a Holy Name, hence we would henceforth write and call it ELoKiM (in short ELKM without vowels.)
I hear your question: is this all that Moses says about G-d? Where is His Mercy? For that we need to continue reading Genesis Chapter One.
Select the best answer ***
Questions posted by Rabbi Z Aviner:
(1) The world e was created by (a) the Attribute of Judgment (b) by ELoHiM (c) by the All Mighty JUIDGE (d) all the above
(2) The title ELoHiM means (a) Merciful (b) King (c) JUDGE (d) Compassionate
(3) ELoHiM is (a) unkind (b) aloof (c) harsh judge (d) acts in vengeance
(4) ELoHiM judges by (a) absolute mercy (b) vengeance (c) without justice (d) measure for measure
(5) The lion kills the lamb because (a) ELoKiM does not like the lamb (b) the lion prevails forever (c) the lion would be eaten too (d) the lion is powerful and godly
(6) The world was created for (a) the messiah (b) for Israel (c) for the prophets (d) for judgment
(7) By stating that “the spirit of ELoHiM hovers over waters” the Torah infers that (a) his judgment is even to all, like water’s surface (b) his judgment penetrates everything like water (c) he uses water to execute His punishment, like in Noah’s Flood (d) all the above
(8) The New Year Holiday, Rosh Hashanah, is a day of (a) getting drunk (b) partying (c) kissing your neighbor’s wives (d) universal judgment
(9) ELoKiM is (a) precise (b) just (c) truthful (d) all the above
(10)ELoKiM sits (a) above Nature (b) under the earth (c) inside our hearts only (d) at the core, or the ‘heart’ of CREATION
Read also: "Genesis Vs. Science, Can They Match?" By Zvi Aviner, at www.smashwords.com
END OF IDOLATRY-3