Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What is Idolatry Really? Some Musings on Caleb Hegg's 2nd Kabbalah Lecture

One time I was addressing a roomful of Christians.  I don't recall how it came up exactly but I remembering saying something to the effect of "The Bible says G-d creates evil."

Shocked gasps from the audience.  EVERYONE was offended.

I shrugged it off and didn't mention it again.  I knew what the Bible said and didn't see the need to press the point further.  It is written in Isaiah:

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things," Isaiah 45:7

Well, this morning I was listening to Caleb Hegg's 2nd lecture and noticed that he said this:

"This is how you have sin within kabbalah.  The darkness is the sin.  Our world is made up of these sparks according to this belief.  Our world is worst of all possible worlds in which there is still hope.  The Theology of tzizum was a new take on kabbalistic teaching by Luria.  This doctrine is important for our study as it is one of the foundational doctrines of the Chasidim.  Tzizum is the only kabbalistic theology in which G-d created the world it is also how evil was created.  Luria brought a provocative new spin on the Ein Sof.  While traditional kabbalah taught that the Ein Sof made up of the Sefirot existed in perfect harmony, Luria taught that the powers of 'din' were able to exist disharmoniously.  This disharmonious power and 'din' is one of the sefirot.  This disharmonious power within Ein Sof was capable of turning from disharmony to evil so now basically what you've done and I think this is uh…uh…a sure sign of idolatry…is that you have basically made G-d into evil.  G-d is responsible for evil.  G-d is those pieces of evil.  K?"

I think a lot of teachers need to do a better job of defining what idolatry actually is.  Here's my definition which is based on Scripture:

Idolatry is the prideful state of mind wherein man fantasizes both the god and the human worship of the god simultaneously and in the process of imagining a god receiving worship participates in prideful self-worship.

Okay, maybe there's a more simple way to word it.  But I stand by the substance of that definition.

I say that to distinguish the kabbalistic explanation for evil from idolatry.  It's not idolatry to attempt to figure out where evil comes from or even to attribute evil to G-d.  Now, I'm not saying that G-d is responsible for ALL evil.  I'm merely pointing out that the Bible says G-d creates evil.  I don't have a whole theory to explain the origins of evil like the kabbalists have done.  I simply haven't spent much time thinking about it.

But I wouldn't call that aspect of kabbalah idolatry.  But perhaps someone disagrees.  I'm open to other points of view.  Does anyone have any thoughts?

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