Scriptural Epiphanies

Uncut Stone Altar: Freeing Ourselves from the Idolatrous Altars of Our Mind

Shemot/Exodus 20:23 You shall most certainly not make alongside of me gods of silver, or gods of gold for yourselves. 24 You shall make an altar of earth for me, and shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your cattle. In every place where I record my name I will come to you and I will bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of cut stones; for if you lift up your tool on it, you have polluted it. 26 Neither shall you go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed to it.’ (Emphases added)

The very end of the Torah portion called Yitro concludes with some very important verses as seen above. Notice that before discussing about the uncut stone altar the issue of idolatry is addressed in verse 23 reemphasizing the issue of idolatry addressed in the 10 commandments. So why an uncut stone altar? This question was at the forefront of my mind when studying the Torah portion. May I offer a potential insight?

If we are honest, we will have to admit that ha satan works on our minds in such a way that our thinking becomes an altar unto ourselves. Think about what goes on with various brethren today. “If you don’t believe my way, I will have nothing to do with you.” We have used a chisel to make ourselves an altar in our minds. If we don’t take every thought captive, we will formulate conclusions and insist everyone comply with what we think to be true. So much for the hands off approach! Hiding right within this Parasha is a perfect example of both types of thinking (uncut stone – hands off or use of a chisel). Let me explain.

The sages explain that Yitro did not follow the Elohim of Yisrael. They said that he believed in other gods, yet acknowledged that the Elohim of the Hebrews was the greatest in power. Other sources indicate the Yitro was a chief priest of the gods of the earth at that time. Hmm. Talk about confronting a chiseled altar in my mind! It begins to make sense.

“Now I know that YHWH is greater than all gods because of the thing in which they dealt arrogantly against them.” Shemot 18:11

Notice Yitro believed in other gods, but YHWH was greater. Yitro had an opportunity to join the people of Yisrael. Instead, he returned to Midian. He continued to walk in his polytheism. The enemy of our souls ha satan formed a chiseled altar in his mind. Yitro did not repent instead he continued to believe in many gods with YHWH as the strongest of them all.

Now it is time to confront our stinking thinking. We will only listen to someone who believes like us. Dare I say that a pagan could receive wisdom from YHWH and teach us something? Moshe’s mind was an uncut stone altar in dealing with Yitro. Even though Yitro was a pagan priest; Moshe was willing to see the wisdom in Yitro’s advice. Can we say that Moshe was into nation building? Instead of forming the cult of Yisrael, Moshe followed advice that emphasized the nation of Yisrael opening the door to full participation by other members.

It is time for Bney Yoseph (House of Joseph) to confront centuries long mindsets of hostility to our Jewish brothers both secular and religious. Nation building requires embracing the uncut altar of YHWH freed from the idols of our mind.

Shavua tov,

Tzefanyah ben Yochanon


Chazak Chazak v’nitchazek
Let us be strong, let us be strong and let us
strengthen (encourage) one another!

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