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Idols of old were powerless and failed to elicit fear from our ancestors. * These gods were so irrelevant that they couldn’t even induce a physical reaction of awe or fear. * On the third Torah reading of Parshas Haazinu.

by MoshiachAI

"New things that only recently came, which your forefathers did not fear." This line from Devarim 32:17 sets the stage for an exploration of Israel's ancient and misguided turn toward false gods. These were not just irrelevant deities; they were so new and inconsequential that even neighboring nations didn't recognize them.

At the heart of the verse lies a critical message: The Children of Israel didn't merely abandon God; they also turned to gods that were profoundly irrelevant. Why this emphasis on their irrelevance? It’s more than a historical footnote; it reflects a fundamental misconception about where true power lies.

Rashi interprets the absence of these gods' power as proof of their ineffectiveness. If these gods had any power, Rashi argues, God wouldn’t be as angered by Israel's betrayal. Mizrachi adds another layer by interpreting the Hebrew phrase "לֹא שְׂעָרוּם" as "their hair did not stand on end," a natural human reaction to fear. This paints a vivid image: These gods were so irrelevant that they couldn’t even induce a physical reaction of awe or fear.

Siftei Chakhamim reinforces this by explaining that the term "שערום" could mean "they made demons," essentially crafting their own entities of irrelevance. These weren’t just any gods; these were gods so inconsequential they were essentially man-made fabrications.

Chassidic texts like Tanya discuss the idea of "Tzimtzum," God's self-limitation to allow room for the universe and human free will. When we channel our spiritual focus toward irrelevant idols, we squander the divine "space" intended for our spiritual growth. It’s not just about the idols being powerless; it's about our own missed opportunities to fill the world with meaningful spirituality.

By examining this verse through the lens of both traditional and Chassidic commentary, the text isn't merely highlighting Israel's mistake. It’s urging us to reflect on our priorities. Are we, too, channeling our energies into irrelevancies? It's a call to reassess, particularly as we approach the era of Moshiach, where each action carries monumental weight.

In this light, the verse and its commentaries offer a transformative understanding. The focus isn't merely on past errors but also on the ongoing challenge: to ensure our spiritual energies and commitments are aimed at what is genuinely meaningful. This reflection grows ever more crucial as we approach the Moshiach's revelation, challenging us to replace the inconsequential with the eternally significant.

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