The passuk states, “יולך ה’ אותך… אל גוי אשר לא ידעת אתה ואבותיך ועבדת שם אלהים אחרים עץ ואבן Hashem will bring you… to a nation that you and your father did not know and you will worship there other gods of wood and stone.” Similarly at the end of the klalos it states, “והפיצך ה’ בכל העמים… ועבדת שם אלהים אחרים אשר לא ידעת אתה ואבותיך עץ ואבן and Hashem will scatter you amongst all the nations and you will worship there other gods which you and your fathers did not know about, of wood and stone.” Also in Parshas Va’eschanan it states, “והפיץ ה’ אתכם בעמים…ועבדתם שם אלהים מעשה ידי אדם עץ ואבן and Hashem will scatter you amongst the nations… and you will worship there gods made by people.” These pessukim reflect that when we will go into exile we will worship idolatry.
Onkelos however translates the words אלהים אחרים and אלהים, as “and you will serve nations which worship the mistakes” referring to idols and gods. Idols made from wood and stone don’t see, hear, eat, drink, and do not help take care of a person’s needs. They are inanimate, and can’t defend themselves and certainly can’t assist others. People are persuaded by falseness, and mistakenly stray to worship them. Rashi explains Onkelos means that you will pay land taxes and head taxes to priests of idolatry or you will work for idol worshipers. This is considered as though you actually worshiped idolatry.
Why does Onkelos not translate literally, that Bnei Yisrael will actually worship idolatry? The D’rashos HaRan answers these pessukim are discussing the punishments which Hashem will give to Bnei Yisrael, and not about their aveiros. Therefore it does not refer to worshiping idolatry, rather to serving the nations who worship idolatry. The Nesina LaGer answers differently, Onkelos does not translate literally as “other gods” that they will worship idolatry, since Hashem is not telling them that they will have to worship idolatry. Also we don’t find that the entire nation worshiped idolatry. The Sifsei Chachamim adds that it is impossible to say that Hashem is telling them that they will worship idolatry.
I’d like to suggest that Onkelos translates in a positive way about Hashem and His nation; we will only pay taxes and serve non-Jewish people, we will not worship idolatry. Hashem’s great kindness will protect us and He will not forsake us to allow us to worship idolatry, we will never become completely lost.
Hashem protects us from being completely lost in galus through anti-semitism. When the goyim make laws against us, discriminate, or use violence against us, it wakes us up and reminds us that we are not like all the other people around us. This is chessed Hashem, protecting us from assimilating.
May Hashem protect all of Klal Yisroel and take us out of galus!