According to Deuteronomy (12:2) idolatrous sites are to be destroyed under certain circumstances.

אַבֵּד תְּאַבְּדוּן אֶת כָּל הַמְּקֹמוֹת אֲשֶׁר עָבְדוּ שָׁם הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם יֹרְשִׁים אֹתָם אֶת אֱלֹהֵיהֶם עַל הֶהָרִים הָרָמִים וְעַל הַגְּבָעוֹת וְתַחַת כָּל עֵץ רַעֲנָן

Rambam cites this verse in Hil. Avodah Zara (7:1)

מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה הִיא לְאַבֵּד עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים וּמְשַׁמְּשֶׁיהָ וְכָל הַנַּעֲשֶׂה בִּשְׁבִילָהּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יב-ב) 'אַבֵּד תְּאַבְּדוּן אֶת כָּל הַמְּקוֹמֹת' וְנֶאֱמַר (דברים ז-ה) 'כִּי אִם כֹּה תַעֲשׂוּ לָהֶם' וְגוֹ'. וּבְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל מִצְוָה לִרְדֹּף אַחֲרֶיהָ עַד שֶׁנְּאַבֵּד אוֹתָהּ מִכָּל אַרְצֵנוּ. אֲבָל בְּחוּץ לָאָרֶץ אֵין אָנוּ מְצֻוִּין לִרְדֹּף אַחֲרֶיהָ אֶלָּא כָּל מָקוֹם שֶׁנִּכְבּשׁ אוֹתוֹ נְאַבֵּד כָּל עֲבוֹדַת כּוֹכָבִים שֶׁבּוֹ. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים יב-ג) 'וְאִבַּדְתֶּם אֶת שְׁמָם מִן הַמָּקוֹם הַהוּא'. בְּאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל אַתָּה מְצֻוֶּה לִרְדֹּף אַחֲרֵיהֶן וְאִי אַתָּה מְצֻוֶּה לִרְדֹּף אַחֲרֵיהֶן בְּחוּץ לָאָרֶץ

To summarize: idolatrous sites in Israel must be destroyed, but in the Diaspora, one need not pursue idolatrous sites. Rather, if one controls one, he ought to destroy it.

Rambam famously rules (Hil. T'shuvah (3:7) Cf. Mishna commentary to Sanhedrin (10:3)) that angel worship is also forbidden. (Even if one only prays to angels in the capacity of intermediaries to God).

וְכֵן הָעוֹבֵד כּוֹכָב אוֹ מַזָּל וְזוּלָתוֹ כְּדֵי לִהְיוֹת מֵלִיץ בֵּינוֹ וּבֵין רִבּוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים. כָּל אֶחָד מֵחֲמִשָּׁה אֵלּוּ הוּא מִין

Would the same laws relating to places of idolatry (particularly the obligation to destroy them) apply to sits where angels are prayed to as intermediaries as well?

Clarification: The core question is whether the laws of abed t'abed apply to sites of "intermediary-worship" this may be related to the question of whether the "minut" that angel-worship constitutes (according to Rambam) is identical to idolatry.

Further clarifications: I realize that there may be many variables that impede implementation of this on a practical or theoretical level; I am not asking about them.

I am not asking about particular prayers of different religions and whether they ought to be interpreted as the aforementioned angel-worship. I am only asking about bona fide angel worship.

  • That linked Wikipedia article is meant to prove the Kochav and Mazal means Angel? Wouldn't it now be easy to just assume the literal translation of the word Ovad Kochavim and answer your question?
    – user6591
    Sep 1, 2015 at 18:02
  • @user6591 Linked wikipedia for more info about the idea of angel-worship in different religions.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 1, 2015 at 18:02
  • if angels are considered to be avodo zoro then why even ask this question? Sep 1, 2015 at 18:05
  • Than where is the source to jump from Kochav and Mazal to Angel?
    – user6591
    Sep 1, 2015 at 18:05
  • @user6591 וְזוּלָתוֹ
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 1, 2015 at 18:18

1 Answer 1


It seems pretty clear from the Rambam's first law of Idolatry that nearly all such worship was of angels. Idolatry is born of worshipping G-d's "entourage" because they are closer to the King, and then focusing so much on the middle-man they forget there is a G-d it was supposed to be all about.

This does appear to be historically true. The Chaldean god Kerub was a bull, who pulled the wagon carrying people's prayers up to heaven and heaven's bounty back to people. In Egypt this god was called Apis, and was worshipped in two temples-- Memphis and Heliopilis, opposite ends of the kingdom. Each with a Golden Bull. R SR Hirsch suggests that the Golden Calf was Apis worship. After all, the Benei Yisrael ask for someone to lead now that Moshe is gone -- a middleman god. Then Yeravam sets up two Temples on opposite ends of the Northern Kingdom and puts a Golden Bull in front of each. He even moved the fall holiday to the eighth month, to match Apis's. And he declares "This is your god, Israel", echoing Aharon's words then he presents them with the Golden Calf. Kerub, Apis, the Golden Calf and Rechavam's temples were all keruvim (cherub) worship.

Similarly, further down in history, thunder is a real natural phenomenon, and thus there is an angel behind it, whether that angel is worshiped as Zeus or Thor or not at all. Or Ares/Mars and War. Etc...

A non-Jew has the power to nullify the state of his idol. And thus the idol of any god that was once worshipped by non-Jews but is no longer worshiped would be nullified. We are under no obligation to destroy temples of Ba'al. (To pick an example from current events.)

  • Rambam does not mention angels in the first halacha in Hil. Avodah Zara.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 1, 2015 at 23:44
  • I would add "BTW" to the last paragraph as it is interesting, but does not answer the question; which just asked for the ikkar hadin about destruction of angel-worship sites, specifically excluding additional variables.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 1, 2015 at 23:55
  • I attempted to use the Rambam's opening and R' Hirsch's discussion of the cult of Apis to show that any answer about idolatry would apply to angel-worship in particular. Then I went on to show that the prohibition isn't relevant in practice, unless you know of a place where they currently worship an idol representing an angel... Sep 2, 2015 at 0:00
  • First of all, I realize that the question was poorly worded so I clarified. Again, Rambam's opening mentions neither angels, nor intermediaries. Second, RSRH tells us (according to your presentation of it) that intermediary worship is equivalent to the golden calf. This could be beefed up (pun not intended) by adding sources about what the calf's status was with regards to its worshipers and the obligation of abed t'abed. Third, many people address prayers to angels as intermediaries. They do this in established places of prayer. I am not sure why you think that this isnt relevant.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 2, 2015 at 0:14
  • Again, apologies about mistakenly saying that it was obvious that that angel-worship is idolatry according to Rambam. He does not write this explicitly, and I edited the question to clarify this.
    – mevaqesh
    Sep 2, 2015 at 0:15

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