What’s Wrong with Star Worship?

Rabbi Moshe Ben-Chaim

And when you look up to the sky and behold the sun and the moon and the stars, the whole heavenly host, you must not be lured into bowing down to them or serving them. These the Lord your God allotted to other peoples everywhere under heaven” (Deut. 4:19).

Moses warns the Jews not to succumb to star worship. But what is his precise rejection? Light is to benefit all mankind equally; light is inanimate and does not distinguish one nation from the next. “These the Lord your God allotted to other peoples everywhere under heaven” means just that. All peoples’ indistinguishable status and lack of uniqueness extinguishes the appeal to serve the luminaries as deities. For a primary belief of idolaters is “Through my actions, I am favored by that deity” (either via sacrifice or worship). Moses tells the Jews that the luminaries do  not distinguish anyone. Moses wished to discount the imagined appeal of star worship.

Second, light is a utility and does nothing more than illuminate. It cannot help man succeed financially, for example. This is the meaning of “God allotted them” (Rashi)—He allotted them to provide light, and nothing more. Thus, worshipping them is foolish. Furthermore the luminaries’ dominion of the sublunar world alone—“under heaven”—reveals their limitation—they are controlled—which is contrary to an “omnipotent” deity. 

But primarily, as God created the luminaries and imposed this limitation, we do not pray to God's creations, but to God alone.