122. The Definition of Idolatry

Avodas Kochavim 2:1

The prohibition against idolatry forbids serving any created thing, including angels, planets, stars, the elements, and anything made from them. Even if the one worshipping the entity knows that Hashem is the Creator and his intention in serving the creation is like that of the generation of Enosh (i.e., to honor God through His emissaries), nevertheless he is considered an idolator. The Torah warns us not to do this, saying, “Lest you lift your eyes toward Heaven and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of Heaven, and be drawn to bow down and worship them…” (Deuteronomy 4:19). We see that one might inquire with the “eye” of his heart and conclude that these entities control the world, having been so assigned by God, making it appropriate to bow down and worship them. This is why Deuteronomy 11:16 tells us, “Take heed that your heart not be deceived, causing you to go astray, to serve other gods and to worship them.” This means that the thoughts of one’s heart should not be permitted to lead one astray to worship these things, making them intermediaries between us and God.

Avodas Kochavim 2:2

Idolators have composed many texts describing the nature of their service, the practices involved, and its laws. God has commanded us not to read such books – not even to think about them or anything having to do with them. We are not even permitted to look at an idol, as per Leviticus 19:4, “Do not turn to the idols.” Regarding this, Deuteronomy 12:30 says, “Take care not to be ensnared to follow them…inquiring after their gods, saying, ‘How did they serve them?’” This prohibits inquiring into the nature of idolatrous service even without actually serving an idol. This ultimately causes a person to turn towards idols and worship them, as the verse concludes, “(saying) ‘I will do likewise.’”

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