Parsha Mitzvot: Yitro: Mitzvah 31 – Concept 27
“Nor worship them.” (Exodus 20:5) We may not worship idols in the manner they are worshipped. (Rambam, Hilchot Avodah Zarah – The Laws of Idolatry and Paganism)
It is interesting that the form of worship specific to an idol becomes important enough to be prohibited. This includes defecating on a idol which was served through defecating, or throwing rocks at an idol served by throwing rocks at it. We are allowed to defecate on other idols except on Pe’or, which was served that way. We can throw rocks at an idol, except at an image of Markolis, which was served by throwing rocks at it.
We can take the approach that the prohibition is because it gives the appearance as if we are serving that idol even if our intention is to treat it in a disgusting manner.
However, we may also derive from this law that we must pay attention to patterns of behavior associated with a specific power or god. For example, there was once an article in The New Republic, which later proved to be false, that money managers would honor the birthdays of Alan Greenspan in some strange ways, because he was such a power in the financial world.
Had the article been true, we would have been forbidden to participate in such ceremonies. Many people treat money as a god, certainly as a power, and we may not honor it in ways associated with its worship. I often wonder about the “first dollar earned” that are posted in many stores.
We have to catch our natural inclination to participate in ceremonies associated with treating anything or anyone other than God with such reverance.