Parshas Shelach – Do You Worship Idols?

By: Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui


“From the beginnings of your dough you shall give to G-d.”

Literally, we are talking about the portion allocated as support for the priests in the Temple, called Challah. In Hebrew, the word for dough can also mean a bed. The Torah would then be saying: Early in the morning, right when you come out of bed, you should dedicate the beginning of day to G-d, in prayer and gratitude.

The Talmud says that anyone who gives Challah – this first portion to G-d –  it’s as if they negated idol worshiping, while anyone who does not give Challah, it’s as if they’ve worshiped idols! Heavy words.

Not worshiping idols  is a cornerstone and foundation of our faith. So, how do we attach what appears to be the observance of one commandment with the foundation and main pillar of our faith?

Dough represents sustenance and life itself. To make dough one must plow the ground, place the seeds, harvest the kernels, make the flour, etc. Lots of steps are dependent on one’s actions according to nature.

It would be very easy for a person who sits down to some bread after working so hard, to think that what he has is a product of his own hard labor and that he is self-made. Even while believing that the world had to be made by an Infinite Intelligence and reflecting on the circumstances of life, during which a person comes to the conclusion that certainly G-d is behind so much of what happens, he may still attribute the results of his own very hard labor to himself.

If and when a person thinks all that he has was earned by himself, there is no reason to give away what is his to someone else. Even if he does give anything away, it has to be self-serving. This is precisely the theme and concept of idol worshiping.

Idol worshiping is when a person attributes power and influence in his life outside of G-d. When a person thinks there is G-d and then there is the other influences, such as my competitor, the enemy, and the employer, he denies G-d in certain areas of his life and puts his faith – worries, in “idols.”

If and when a person believes that everything in his life has the influence of an infinite G-d, which would mean that whatever circumstances a person is in, in the end is to the credit of G-d.

If I realize that my parents brought me into the world, educated me, clothed me, gave me the money for my business, advised me etc., I don’t have a problem with giving them FIRST their due and then enjoying some for myself.

A person who worships idols has many gods, and his world is very fragmented. There are so many influences, and he can be torn and dragged into so many directions. A person who realizes and understands that notwithstanding his own efforts (which is also to the credit of G-d), everything around him is always influenced by G-d, has a unified and realistic life.

That is why according to the law, the portion dedicated to the priest must come not from the flour – fragmented particles but from the kneaded dough. The unity of one’s belief leads easily to dedicating time and resources to G-d, to helping the world around us for its own sake.


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