Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Parshas Kedoshim 5776

What is Molech?

The Torah writes (Leviticus 20:1-2):
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: Moreover, thou shalt say to the children of Israel: Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death; the people of the land shall stone him with stones.
Rashi explains (above 18:21):
This was an idol the name of which was "Molech", and this was the manner in which it was worshipped: that he (the father) handed his child over to the priests of the idol. These lit two large pyres one opposite the other and made the child to pass on foot between the two pyres (based on Sanhedrin 64)
Ibn Ezra (ibid) based on the Talmud adds:
And our Rabbis taught that this includes anything [i.e. any idol] that one makes a king over him
Rashi (Kings II 23:10) explains the process further:
the Tofeth: This was the Molech. Since priests would bang on drums so that the father would not hear the groans of the child when he would be burned by the hands of the pagan image, Molech, they called it Topheth. 
(other commentaries ibid say that the child was burned between the two sets of fires and not the hands of the idol, see also Rashi on Jeremiah 7:31 that elaborates that they placed the child in the hands of the idol which were heated up)

Sefer HaChinuch (208) explains a disagreement as to what the exact worship of Molech was:
Rashi and Rambam learn that they did not burn the child only that the worship of this idol was to pass the child in front of it, and once the child has passed the parents are liable. However, the Ramban learns that they would pass the child into the fire until his/her soul left [and he/she died]
Ibn Ezra (ibid) cites a similar opinion:
And some say that they would pass the child through the fire, and some children lived and some died
Ramban (ibid) cites opinions connecting this with other idols in Tanach:
It is an idol named "Molech" and it is mentioned by name for it was well known in Egypt and thus known to them, and Rabbi Abraham says that this was probably "Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon" (Kings II 23:13) and "then did Solomon build a high place for Chemosh the detestation of Moab, in the mount that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech the detestation of the children of Ammon" (Kings I 11:7) and it was also known to them
(see also our earlier post)

However, the Talmud cites another opinion that Molech was not an idol - as explained by Rashi (ibid):
For Molech specifically was mentioned in the verse ... and not because it is an idol only because it is a decree (חוק) for them and the Torah punishes this decree with stoning
 Sforno (ibid) explains the reasoning behind this:
the difference between offering sacrifices to the Moloch and to G’d respectively is that to G’d only animals are sacrificed, whereas to the deity known as Moloch, human beings, specifically one’s son, is sacrificed. This would indicate that the worshipper of the Moloch considers him as more powerful than G’d, for why else would he sacrifice his dearest possession, his son, to him and not to G’d?

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