Indeed, idol worship is a big deal. Throughout the entire book of Devarim – especially in our Parsha – we find Moshe warning against this terrible sin time and time again.
“You are about to enter Eretz Canaan, a land full of Avodah Zarah, idol worship. First thing on your to-do list should be to completely destroy all the idols of the people of Cana’an. Demolish their places of worship – on the high hills and mountains. Tear down their altars and smash their monuments! Erase, eliminate, obliterate, eradicate, wipe out, destroy and totally tsooshmetter them!”
“Tsooshmetter… what’s that?”
“It’s to erase, eliminate, obliterate, eradicate, wipe out, and destroy! It’s TSOOSHMETTER!”
Not only serving idols is not a good thing, in fact, our Sages tell us (and Rashi mentions it at the beginning of our Parsha) that someone who serves Avodah Zarah denies the ENTIRE TORAH!
Now here are some points to ponder:
It’s no coincidence that Moshe points out the location of the idols – “on the high hills and mountains.” Think about it. A building, perched high, tall and proud, is impressive and noticeable. A lot more inspiring than a ground-floor location.
Indeed, the Rambam tells us that the idol worshippers of old made it a point to build their places of worship on the highest of locations, even on top of hills or mountains. To counter that, according to the Rambam, that is why HaShem commanded to build the Beis HaMikdash on a very high mountain, Mount Moriah.
That’s why our Sages tell us that, if possible, a synagogue should be built on the highest place in town, and if possible, should be the tallest building around.
BTW #1: As we will see later in the Parsha, when Jews traveled to Jerusalem 3 times a year, it was called Aliyah LaRegel – “going up for the holiday.”
BTW #2: A trip to visit Jerusalem and the Western Wall (where the Beis HaMikdash was located) is the perfect opportunity to feel this kind of inspiration from majestic heights and views. As the car or bus travels up to Jerusalem… you get higher and higher both physically and spiritually! What a feeling! And finally, you reach the top, the location of the Beis HaMikdash! Wow!