One of the cardinal commandments of Jewish life is the prohibition of worshiping false gods. In fact, idolatry is one of three commandments for which a person is supposed to sacrifice one’s life rather than violate. While the prohibition includes all forms of idolatry, it is interesting to note that the Torah specifically prohibits the worship of “Molech,” not once, but eight times.

Archeologically, there seems to be almost no record of a god named Molech. It is, however, interesting to note that the letters that form the word “molech” are the same as the root letters for Hebrew word for kingship (melech, malchut). It is quite possible, therefore, that this prohibition refers to a type of idolatry rather than a specific god by that name.

“You shall not let any of your seed (children) pass through the fire of Molech “ (Leviticus 18:21).

“Again, you shall say to the Children of Israel, whosoever of the Children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that gives any of his seed to Molech, he shall surely be put to death…and I will set my face against him and will cut him off from among his people because he has given of his seed to Molech” (ibid. 20:2-3).

These are just a few of the verses referring to Molech, and all of these verses, whether they refer to acts for which one is held liable or to the punishments, include the giving of a child over to idolatry. There are debates as to exactly what the worship of Molech entailed – walking between two flames or actual child sacrifice. In either case the child is sacrificed, either spiritually or physically, and this is abhorrent to Judaism.

Every child is a blessing, a fact accentuated by the lessons taught in the story of Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac.

For more on the worship of Molech, read Rabbi Buchwald’s “The Unfathomable Practice of Molech Worship.”  

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