Why loving Kimmy K. is not idol worship (probably)

March 18, 2014

By Sarah Soroudi, Editor Emeritus

Does idolizing a celebrity qualify as idol worship?

According to Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi David Stein, when there is no inherent value incopying a celebrity, one could potentially be violating the prohibition against following the ways of society.

“If Shalhevet students are doing something just to be like a certain celebrity, they are definitely treading on thin ice,” Rabbi Stein said.

“Even though they aren’t committing idolatry, there is definitely a corollary to idol worship, because of the prohibition that tells us not to follow in the ways of the pagans.”

However, he continued to say that simply being inspired by someone’s style, or dressing in a contemporary fashion — while remaining modest — is not a violation of the prohibition.

Idolatry in the Torah, based on the Second Commandment, is referred to as avoda zara, which means foreign worship of a god that is not God.

Rabbi Stein believes that there is a certain point at which worshipping a celebrity violates this, but that students are not likely to reach it.

“I don’t think any of the copy-cat thing at school is anyone thinking this celebrity is actually God,” Rabbi Stein said. “One could potentially violate a commandment worshipping Kim Kardashian but they have to actually see her as a God and start a religion saying Kim Kardashian is a savior.”

Rabbi Ari Schwarzberg agreed.

“Worshipping secular culture certainly does not qualify as an actual violation of idolatry,” said Rabbi Schwarzberg. “I think it is important to distinguish between being heavily influenced by something and calling it worship.”

Still, he said, there might be spiritual consequences to idolizing celebrities.

“I do think that if these influences begin to replace more meaningful influences and become distractions from more important values, then they become highly problematic,” Rabbi Schwarzberg said.

Some believe that though idolizing a celebrity is not actual idolatry, it opens a gate to violating the prohibition.

“People are obsessing over a celebrity who has done nothing but the materialistic,” said senior Yosef Nemanpour, “and I think that can definitely lead toavoda zara.

But Rabbi Stein pointed out that celebrities do good things, too.

“We have to constantly be asking ourselves about the good things that celebrities do and appreciate that,” said Rabbi Stein. “We have to be cognizant about our relationship with celebrities, and if they do something that falls in line with our value system than we can’t ignore that either.”

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