AN ANCIENT Canaanite idol of Baal with raised arm from the 14th–12th centuries BCE, found at Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit in modern-day Syria).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
On the eve of entering the Land of Israel, Moses reminds the Israelites to keep God’s commandments in the land that they are about to enter. Moses sternly warns them of the dangers of idol worship, which was rife in Canaan. The Israelites are instructed to destroy the sites of such foreign worship, whether they are on lofty mountains, or on hills, or under a luxuriant tree. Moreover, altars and pillars were to be smashed, sacred trees burned and graven images cut down (Deuteronomy 12:1-3). In the following verse Moses quickly adds: “Do not do thus to the Lord your God.”The hassidic master Rabbi Zvi Elimelekh Shapira of Dynow (1783-1841), citing his saintly contemporaries, read this addendum as a relevant directive aimed as spiritual growth, unconnected to ancient Canaanite idols of bygone days.