Idolatry, Peer Pressure and Jewish dignity

לֹֽא־תַעֲשׂ֨וּ לָכֶ֜ם אֱלִילִ֗ם וּפֶ֤סֶל וּמַצֵּבָה֙ לֹֽא־תָקִ֣ימוּ לָכֶ֔ם וְאֶ֣בֶן מַשְׂכִּ֗ית לֹ֤א תִתְּנוּ֙ בְּאַרְצְכֶ֔ם לְהִֽשְׁתַּחֲוֺ֖ת עָלֶ֑יהָ כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י ה' אֱלֹקֵיכֶֽם׃ אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַ֣י תִּשְׁמֹ֔רוּ וּמִקְדָּשִׁ֖י תִּירָ֑אוּ אֲנִ֖י ה'׃ {פ}

You shall not make idols for yourselves, or set up for yourselves carved images or pillars, or place figured stones in your land to worship upon, for I the LORD am your God. You shall keep My sabbaths and venerate My sanctuary, Mine, the LORD’s.

Why are these verses here? What do they have to do with the rest of Behar?

לא תעשו לכם אלילים. כְּנֶגֶד זֶה הַנִּמְכָּר לְגוֹי, שֶׁלֹּא יֹאמַר הוֹאִיל וְרַבִּי מְגַלֶּה עֲרָיוֹת, אַף אֲנִי כְּמוֹתוֹ, הוֹאִיל וְרַבִּי עוֹבֵד עָ"זָ, אַף אֲנִי כְּמוֹתוֹ, הוֹאִיל וְרַבִּי מְחַלֵּל שַׁבָּת, אַף אֲנִי כְּמוֹתוֹ, לְכָךְ נֶאֶמְרוּ מִקְרָאוֹת הַלָּלוּ;

לא תעשו לכם אלילם YE SHALL MAKE YOU NO IDOLS This command is repeated here with reference to one who has sold himself as a slave to a non-Jew in order that he should not say "Since my master is a libertine I will be like him; since my master worships idols, I will be like him; since my master desecrates the Sabbath, I will be like him", on this account have these verses (v. 1 and v. 2) been stated.

Rashi give us the first answer. What is he adding? What do you think of his approach? Sforno gives us a second answer. How is he different from Rashi and what do you think of his approach?

את שבתותי תשמורו אף בימי השעבוד אף על פי שהמנוחה בהם זכר לחירות:

את שבתותי תשמורו, even during the period when you find yourselves in exile, even though that any rest observed during such periods is a reminder of your erstwhile freedom instead of your slavery in Egypt, and the fact that even God rested on the seventh day.

ומקדשי תיראו המקומות המקודשים בגלות והם בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות אף על פי שחרב בית המקדש כאמרו ואהי להם למקדש מעט ואמרו ז''ל (מגילה כט, א) אלו בתי כנסיות ובתי מדרשות:

ומקדשי תיראו; the holy sites of the Jewish people during the years of their exile, such as Torah academies and synagogues. Ezekiel 11,15 describes such buildings as מקדש מעט, a “miniature Temple.” Our sages state that he referred by this definition to Torah academies and synagogues.

According to Rashi, the Torah is specifically warning against peer pressure. We are not to behave like those around us, even if we work for them. We are not to worship idols or forget Shabbat no matter what “everyone else” might be doing.

According to Seforno, the Torah is talking about the importance of Jewish dignity when Jews live among gentiles who are sometimes oppressive. That dignity should be maintained by acting as Jews should act – refraining from idol worship, observing Shabbat, and establishing synagogues and study houses.

Which answer do you find more convincing, Rashi’s or Seforno’s? How might we apply the lessons in our own lives?

Do you have a different idea as to why these two verses conclude Parashat Behar?