Sunday, 26 April 2009

The Two Faces of Alien Worship Pt. 1

Some phrases can be quite ambiguous E.G. Slow Children at School
Does this refer to children who attend a school for the intellectually challenged?
Most likely it means X go SLOWly! - CHILDREN are attending or leaving SCHOOL

When in English we say "alien worship" We may imply two different points

  1. Worshipping Aliens (I.E. alien gods) which makes the Alien the Object of worship
  2. Worshipping in an Alien-matter which means alien is an Adverb describing HOW we worship.

Both aspects are discussed in the Torah

In the Ten Commandments we are admonished not to worship anyone but GOD alone. "Thou shalt have no other gods before ME." Thus the proscription for alien worship known in rabbinical literature as Avodah Zarah. AKA Avodat Ellillim / Gellilim / Kochavim flows from basic Torah principles. - And as we see zara means alien.

OTOH alien worship in terms of a "HOW" to worship is not directly or so obviously prohibited. Yet the torah unambiguously condemns such a practice.

The first condemnation is in the passage describing the terrifying and tragic
Deaths of Nadav and Avihu (Lev. Ch. 10). They were burned in front of THE LORD by bringing in an "eish Zara" an alien fire

Now there is no question they were worshipping the ONE TRUE GOD. This is confirmed and reconfirmed 3 more times in the Torah itself!

The point was the how, the nature or the technique of their worship was "alien". This alien worship is termed "eish zara" worshipping GOD by the same means
As idol worshippers.

In Deut. 12:30 we are admonished not to investigate and pursue the techniques of the surrounding pagans. It can mean not worshipping idols. I prefer to read this as not using idolotrous techniques to worship GOD. The very next verse actually describes their TECHNIQUES as abominations.

How does this map out in reality?

  • Worshipping hare krishna would be avodah zara.
  • Worshipping GOD using hare krishna chants would be "eish zara"

  • Worshipping Buddha with Tibetan Chimes - Avodah Zara
  • Worshipping GOD with Tibetan chimes -Eish zara

  • Christians worshipping Jsus of nazareth using an organ - Avodah zara
  • Jews worshipping GOD with an organ (and thereby emulating Chrisitans) - [you fill in the blank]

WHOM we worship is prime.

But the ends don't justify all means. HOW we worship the TRUE GOD has also halachic (and possibly aggadic) boundaries.



Garnel Ironheart said...

Worshipping Klingon gods is true alien worship.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

It actually gets even more complicated. Take the case of bamot, a practice that was considered very positive before Matan Torah but forbidden thereafter. It would seem that even something that we could find valuable and adds to the process can ultimately be still placed outside the Torah parameters. Yet chassidim will tell you about all the niggunim that they know were originally non-Jewish songs but, yet, the rebbes that sang them knew that they were still appropirate for avodat Hashem. Of course, why would there be any problem with any non-Jewish song -- yet there are those, including many of these same chassidim who sing these niggunim, who would maintain that this is chukkot hagoyim (even if not really halachically but, at least, in the spirit according to these people). There are no doubt parameters and sometimes the parameters are pretty clear but sometimes they are not. Things that we think should be okay sometimes are not and things that we think are clearly okay sometimes are not.

And Garnel, not only is the truth that there are no Klingon gods but the truth is that there also aren't any Klingons. Which may actually mean that applying Klingon practice would not really be assur (some restrictions of avodah zara only apply if the avodah zara is actually being practiced.)

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Garnel Ironheart said...

Yes, there are: