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“And you will make a graven image, even the likeness of anything which Hashem your G-d has commanded you.” (4:23)

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  Rashi explains this posuk so that the possibility of misinterpretation is circumvented. He defines the phrase “which Hashem commanded you” to mean “which you were commanded not to do“. Despite Rashi‘s redefinition, it still seems puzzling why the Torah did not simply say “which Hashem despises”. The Rebbe of Kotzk Zt”l interprets this posuk’s implication homiletically. He explains the conformity in the meaning of “pesel” (graven image of stone, etc.) and “temunah” (form of likeness, picture). Both of these terms refer to a form which is externally and superficially real, but internally lacks substance and tangibility. A pesel is a stone shaped into an image. A temunah is a form which is transfered to canvas or paper. Despite the striking resemblance to the original, they are nothing more than a facsimile of a real person or object; each lacks corporeality and authenticity. This posuk warns us not to make imitations of Hashem’s mitzvos, by masquerading in the guise of righteousness, deceiving others and even ourselves with actions completely devoid of authenticity and credibility. Mitzvos should be performed with consistency throughout, reflecting the proper intentions and attitudes inherent in one who serves Hashem.

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