Idolatry and Egotism

Rabbi Israel Chait

We say that Avoda Zara leads to self-aggrandizement. How does this fit into Rambam’s three stages of idolatrous devolution? Enosh is Stage I, false prophets is Stage II, and the liars’ era is Stage III. 

In the Enosh era, there was no mistake about who is God, only about His will. In Stage II they lied and stated that God told them to serve a specific physical form in specific ways. In stage III, that of the “liars,” they claimed that the star itself spoke to them and demanded such and such a service. 

Once again in Stage I, God was not changed; the mistake was about the proper way to serve Him. In Stage II, they imputed to God a false command. They now were worshiping a different god. He is no more a God of truth. There is no such god in existence, only in the imagination of man.

In Stage III, God is completely removed from the picture; there are only the physical forms who are worshiped in accordance with the human will. God retreated into oblivion. In all three cases, man tries to impress his control over God's will, thereby aggrandizing the self, as the prophet says, “Can man make a God for himself? And they are not gods” (Jer. 16:20).