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Molech Worship

Molech Worship

Negative Commandment 7

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The 7th prohibition is that we are forbidden from handing over some1 of our children to the idol Molech, which was well known in the time when the Torah was given.

The source of this commandment is G‑d's statement (exalted be He),2 "Do not give some of your children to be passed over [a fire] to Molech."

The Seventh chapter of Sanhedrin3 explains the way in which this idol was worshipped: [They would] light a fire and increase it, and he would take some of his children and hand them over to those who took care of serving this idol, and he would pass him over the fire from one side to the other.4

The prohibition on this act is repeated in the verse,5 "There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter in fire."

One who transgresses this prohibition intentionally is executed by stoning; if he is not executed by stoning6, he is punished by karet; and if he did so unintentionally, he must bring a sin-offering.

The details of this mitzvah have been explained in the seventh chapter of Sanhedrin.

FOOTNOTES
1.

The Hebrew word, mi'zaracha, literally means, "from your offspring." The Talmud says that this wording alludes to the law that one is executed only if he give some of his children to Molech. If he gives all his children to Molech, he would not be punished.
It is interesting to note the commentary of the Smag (N40), who explains that offering all one's children to Molech is such a serious act that not even execution can atone for. This is consistent with the Torah's view of punishment as a correction and cleansing for the transgressor.

2.

Lev. 18:21.

3.

64b.

4.

In Hilchos Avodah Zarah (6:5), the Rambam writes, "He would take some of his children and hand them to the fire-worshipping priests, and after he was given over into their hands, those priests would give the child back to his father to pass him through the fire while under their authority. The father would be the one to pass his child over the fire while under the authority of the priests. He would pass him in the midst of the fire by foot to the other side, not actually burning him to the Molech as done by those who burn their sons and daughters to other idols."

5.

Deut. 18:10.

6.

If there was no prior warning, or no witnesses, for example.

Rabbi Berel Bell is a well-known educator, author and lecturer. He and his family reside in Montreal, Canada.
From "Sefer Hamitzvot in English," published by Sichos in English.
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