436. Smash!: The obligation to destroy idols

You shall utterly destroy the places where the nations…worshipped their idols… (Deuteronomy 12:2)

It is a mitzvah to eradicate not only the idols themselves, but also the places of idolatry. This is to be done in the most effective manner, be it smashing, burning, chopping, etc. (A clay idol might best be smashed; an idol of gold really needs to be melted in fire.) The Torah repeats the word "destroy," normally rendering the verse in English as "you shall surely destroy" or, as we have done, "you shall utterly destroy." The actual implication, however, is that we should destroy such things even repeatedly (for example, if an asheira tree re-grows, it must be chopped down again).

The reason for all this, as we have stated before, is that idolatry is a huge affront to God - and we should likewise be appalled on His behalf!

It is a mitzvah to destroy idolatrous places wherever and whenever we have the opportunity to do so, but one need actively pursue the opportunity only in Israel.

This mitzvah applies to men and women in all times and places. It is discussed in the Talmud in tractate Avodah Zarah (45a-46a and 51b-52a). It is codified in the Shulchan Aruch in Yoreh Deah 146. This mitzvah is #185 of the 248 positive mitzvos in the Rambam’s Sefer HaMitzvos; it is not listed in the Sefer HaMitzvos HaKatzar of the Chofetz Chaim.