The Grip of Idols | Sojourners

The Grip of Idols

An excerpt from 'The Hidden Order of Intimacy: Reflections on the Book of Leviticus.'
The Hidden Order of Intimacy: Reflections on the Book of Leviticus, by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg / Schocken Books

Reprinted by permission of Schocken Books, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2022 by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Purchase the book at

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE first commandment (“I am the Lord your God who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slaves”) comes the second commandment—almost as though after a colon: “You shall have no other gods in My presence.” The Exodus represents a break for freedom, and the construction of a new identity based on that freedom. An important aspect of freedom is the separation not just from Egypt but from the fascination with Egypt’s gods. The Exodus is an iconoclastic project; entering a covenant with the One God is an attempt to break the idolatrous spell.

Eric Santner offers a psychoanalytic understanding of what he calls Egyptomania.

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