Monday, August 30, 2010

The Ramban on Molech


The Ramban (Nachmanides, 1194 - 1270) wrote a detailed commentary on the idol - worship of Molech which took place during the First Temple period. The Gemara (rabbinic discussions) in the Talmud Tractate Yoma 9b lists three reasons for why the First Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. Why let G - d the Temple being destroyed although it was King Salomon (Shlomo HaMelech) who built it ? Why had a destruction to take place ?

Another question: Why should a destruction not take place ? Didn't the Prophet Yechezkel not prophecies a Third Temple in the time of Meshiach ? A Third Temple where the Cohanim and Levi'im serve and Korbanot (sacrifcises) are being brought. Thus the two Temples had to be destroyed in order to pave the way for Meshiach and the Third Temple.

Sexual perversion, murder and idol - worship were reason enough for G - d to destroy the First Temple. The Babylonians were just a tool of G - d's infinite and perfect will.
One of the most famous form of idol - worship during the times of the First Tempel was the worship of "Molech". Executed by special Molech "priests" and taking place in the so - called "Tofet" near today's Cinematheque and Sultan's Pool (Jerusalem). Just right across Jaffa Gate.

The Ramban wrote a special commentary about Molech in Parashat Acharei Mot (Book of Leviticus / Vayikra):

Molech was an idol and Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra wrote that it is possible that Molech is identical with MILCOM of the Ammonites.

Rashi explained the Molech idol - worship procedure:

The father would hand over his son to the priests, and the priests lit two pyres  (one opposite the other), and they made the child pass on foot between the two fires. 
Rashi asked the question whether a father acting this way is really guilty of worshipping an idol because the son is not touching the fire but only walking through the two pyres. The Torah doesn't allow the Jews to pass the children to Molech: "Le Ha'avir LaMolech". "Le Ha'avir" here stands for actually passing through the fire but the son didn't do so. Moreover, the father didn't deliver his son to Molech but to the priests who then gave it to Molech.

The Ramban, however, has a totally different opinion: He says that the son had to walk into the pyres and was burnt until he died. Furthermore, the Ramban claims that the Gods of the Sepharvaim (see Kings II, 17:31) are also identified with Molech, for their surnames Adrammelech and Anammelech denote kingship (from the Hebrew word "Melech - King").

"Molech" and "Baal" were the most popular forms of idolatry during the ear of the First Temple and both were, at certain times, identical. The Talmud Tractate Sanhedrin tells us a very famous story about how Chizkiyahu's (Hezkiah's) mother rubbed him with the oil of a salamander. His father Ahaz made him pass the Molech but Chizkiyahu survived due to his protective mother.

Not only Ahaz used to sacrifice his children but also King Menashe.

Further Link on the Subject:

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