During the time of the second Beit HaMikdash, the 120 sages of the Great Assembly were granted the ability to rip out the desire for idolatry (yetzer hora of avodah zora) from the collective soul of the Jewish people (see Sanhedrin 64a here for some background)

If yetzer hora of avodah zora could be vanquished in principle at its root relative to the collective Jewish soul, why is it that there remains one/many/any yetzer hora still? Idolatry can take many forms, say egotistical lust for power, worshipping money, pursuing immorality, or seeking self-centered honor because you are carving out a space devoid of Hashem. In what way is any remaining yetzer hora different from yetzer hora of avodah zora?

From the answer of ray below, this excerpt reflects my thinking

There is a concept of Avodah Zarah that exists today as much as it existed thousands of years ago. In fact, perhaps it is more prevalent now than ever. The Akeidah says that today's 'Avodah Zarah' is devoting all of one's time to amassing wealth and property. When the pasuk says "Do not make with Me, gods of silver and gods of gold for yourselves" [20:20], it does not just mean little idols that one bows down to three times a day! It means do not make money -- gold and silver -- into a god.

It is the same Avodah Zarah, says the Akeidah al HaTorah. For many, Gold and Silver Are mighty gods, upon whom people put their faith and credibility

To one extent or another we all face this test. It is not true -- Avodah Zarah has not been nullified. Unfortunately, it is alive and well among us. Especially among us, in our capitalistic society where we see how people become consumed with this god called making money. It hasn't changed at all.

Since I was voted down, perhaps I should frame the question more abstractly for the mathematicians I know frequent this site: Take the Cantor hierarchies of infinities and the diagonalization proof to differentiate between countable viz uncountable infinities (integers vs reals, then further onwards with power sets).

  1. I am wondering into which infinity set in the hierarchy one would map the yetzer hora of avodah zora.
  2. I am also wondering why per diagonalization analogue argument the subduing of the yetzer hora of avodah zora does not entail the subduing of all other yetzer hora, since idolatry (I believe one can find Torah proof texts for this) is the root of all other yetzer horas.

People who are familiar with Rav Harav Ginsburgh's teachings (in Hebrew/English) may be able to find more pointers.

  • 4
    Presumably, then, they got rid of only the yetzer hara for actual avoda zara. No source, so I'm not sure and am not writing it as an answer, but it seems the obvious answer to me.
    – msh210
    Jul 20, 2015 at 19:35
  • 3
    I think when people refer to "avodah zara to money" and similar ideas they are usually speaking in hyperbole.
    – Daniel
    Jul 20, 2015 at 19:42
  • 2
    See the medrash about what happened when they tried to destroy the complete yetzer haraqh (hens stopped laying, etc.) Jul 20, 2015 at 20:26
  • sorta related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/48459/759
    – Double AA
    Jul 20, 2015 at 20:42

1 Answer 1


Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm writes (forget the exact source) that the yetzer hara for idolatry was never really destroyed, it merely changed form from worship of idols to worship of other things. he says one form it has changed to today is worship of money.

see also this by Rabbi Yisacher Frand http://www.torah.org/learning/ravfrand/5757/yisro.html


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