Last week on Friday, all junior students were privileged to attend an Idolatry Panel featuring Rabbi Reuven Brand, Rabbi Phil Karesh and Rabbi Mayer Simcha Stromer. Panelists were selected by students and each one of them presented on the topics of ancient and modern day idolatry (which juniors are learning about in their Tanakh classes via the books of Melachim and Yirmiyahu).
Rabbi Brand used a football analogy, explaining that all of us are like Tom Brady when it comes to Avodas Hashem (service of God). If we were to be watching NBA highlights rather than focusing on football strategies when playing in the NFL Superbowl, that would not only be a distraction but be a betrayal of the fans and our league. So too, to focus on idolatry rather than God is to betray our true calling.
Rabbi Karesh spoke about the connection we once had with Hashem. He said that at the same time we lost the desire for idolatry, we also lost the capacity for navuah (prophecy). Back in the day, he explained, we had such drive for connection that it could either be used to attain the highest heights- connecting with Hashem- or to fall to the lowest depths- humiliating ourselves performing bizarre acts before idols. Currently, we no longer really understand what true connection to God or to idols is like.
Rabbi Mayer Simcha Stromer presented on the modern day version of idolatry. He referenced Stan Smiths and how everyone wants them. He said that today’s idolatry would be like “going with the flow,” buying certain shoes or doing certain things simply because everyone else was doing them. Back in the day, Bnei Yisrael were attracted to idols in part because all the other nations were worshiping them. In this regard, we haven’t changed so much.
Students had the opportunity to ask the panelists questions and learned more about the impact of idolatry on the moral decay of society and what the balance is between going with the flow and being oneself. They appreciated the presentation.