Deuteronomy (Devarim) 11:26 – 16:17
Choice Between Good and Evil
You can therefore see that I am placing before you both a blessing and a curse. The blessing will come if you obey the commandments of HaShem , which I am prescribing to you today.
The curse will come if you do not obey the commandments of HaShem , and you go astray from the path that I am prescribing for you today, following other gods to have a novel spiritual experience.
When HaShem brings you to the land which you are about to occupy, you must declare the blessing on Mount Gerizim, and the curse on Mount Ebal. They are across the Jordan, just beyond the Sunset Highway on the way to Gilgal, near the Plains of Moreh, in the territory of the Canaanites who live in the flood plain.
You must do this because you are crossing the Jordan to come to the land which HaShem is giving you and occupy it. When you have occupied it and you live there, you must carefully keep all the rules and laws that I am prescribing to you today.
These are the rules and laws that you must carefully keep in the land that HaShem, Lord of your fathers, is giving you so that you will be able to occupy it as long as you live on earth: Do away with all the places where the nations whom you are driving out worship their gods, whether they are on the high mountains, on the hills, or under any luxuriant tree. You must tear down their altars, break up their sacred pillars, burn their Asherah trees, and chop down the statues of their gods, obliterating their names from that place.
You may not worship HaShem in such a manner. This you may do only on the site that HaShem will choose from among all your tribes, as a place established in His name. It is there that you shall go to seek His presence.
That shall be the place to which you must bring your burnt offerings and eaten sacrifices, your special tithes, your hand-delivered elevated gifts, your general and specific pledges, and the first-born of your cattle and flocks. You and your families shall eat there before HaShem , and you shall rejoice in all your endeavours, through which HaShem shall bless you. You will then not be able to do everything that we are now doing, where each person does what is right in his eyes.
Now you have not yet come to the resting place and hereditary land that HaShem is giving you. But you shall soon cross the Jordan and live in the land that HaShem is allotting you. When He has granted you safety from all your enemies around you, and you live in security, there will be a site that HaShem will choose as the place dedicated to His name. It is there that you will have to bring all that I am prescribing to you as your burnt offerings, eaten sacrifices, special tithes, hand-delivered elevated gifts, and the choice general pledges that you may pledge to HaShem.
You shall rejoice before HaShem along with your sons, your daughters, your male and female slaves, and the Levites from your settlements, who have no hereditary portion with you. Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings in any place that you may see fit.
It must be done only in the place that HaShem shall choose in [the territory of] one of your tribes. Only there shall you sacrifice burnt offerings, and only there shall you prepare all the offerings that I am prescribing to you.
Elsewhere in all your settlements, you may only slaughter animals to satisfy your own wants, so that you will be able to eat the meat that HaShem gives you as His blessing. There the clean and unclean may eat it, like the deer and the gazelle. The only thing you must not eat is the blood, which you must spill on the ground like water.
However, in your own settlements, you may not eat the tithes of your grain, wine and oil, the first-born of your cattle and flocks, any general pledges you make, your specific pledges, or your hand-delivered elevated gifts.
These you may eat only before HaShem , in the place that HaShem shall choose. You shall eat them along with your son, your daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite from your settlements, and you shall rejoice before HaShem for everything you have. As long as you are in the land, you must be careful not to abandon the Levite.
When HaShem expands your borders as He promised you, and your natural desire to eat meat asserts itself, so that you say, ‘I wish to eat meat,’ you may eat as much meat as you wish. Since the place chosen by HaShem to be dedicated to His name is far, you need only slaughter your cattle and small animals that HaShem will have given you in the manner that I have prescribed. You may then eat them in your settlements in any manner you desire.
However, you must eat them as you would a deer or gazelle, with the clean and unclean eating together. Be very careful not to eat the blood, since the blood is associated with the spiritual nature, and when you eat flesh, you shall not take in the spiritual nature along with it. Since you must not eat the blood, you can pour it on the ground like water.
If you do not eat it, you and your descendants will have a good life, since you will be doing what is morally right in HaShem’s eyes. However, when you have any sacred offerings and pledges, you must take them and bring them to the place that HaShem shall choose. Then, when you prepare your burnt offerings, both the flesh and blood shall be placed on the altar of HaShem . In the case of eaten sacrifices, the blood shall be poured on the altar of HaShem , and the flesh shall be eaten.
Carefully listen to all these words that I prescribe to you, so that you and your descendants will have a good life forever, since you will be doing that which is good and morally right in the eyes of HaShem .
Worshipping HaShem with Idolatrous Practices
When HaShem excises the nations to which you are coming, and drives them away before you, you shall expel them and live in their land.
After they have been wiped out before you, be very careful not to fall into a deadly trap by trying to follow them. Do not try to find out about their gods, saying, ‘Now, how did these nations worship their gods? I would also like to try such practices.’
Do not worship HaShem with such practices. In worshipping their gods, these nations, committed all sorts of perversions hated by HaShem. They would even burn their sons and daughters in fire as a means of worshipping their gods!
It is enough that you carefully observe everything that I am prescribing to you. Do not add to it and do not subtract from it.
The Idolatrous Prophet
This is what you must do when a prophet or a person who has visions in a dream arises among you. He may present you with a sign or miracle, and on the basis of that sign or miracle, say to you, ‘Let us try out a different god. Let us serve it and have a new spiritual experience.’
Do not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. HaShem is testing you to see if you are truly able to love HaShem with all your heart and all your soul. Follow HaShem , remain in awe of Him, keep His commandments, obey Him and serve Him, and you will then be able to have a true spiritual experience through Him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for having spoken rebelliously against HaShem , who brought you out of Egypt and liberated you from the place of slavery. He was trying to make you leave the path that HaShem commanded you to walk, and you must destroy such evil from your midst.
This is what you must do if your blood brother, your son, your daughter, your bosom wife, or your closest friend secretly tries to act as a missionary among you, and says, ‘Let us go worship a new god. Let us have a spiritual experience previously unknown by you or your fathers.’
He may be enticing you with the gods of the nations around you, far or near, or those that are found at one end of the world or another. Do not agree with him, and do not listen to him. Do not let your eyes pity him, do not show him any mercy, and do not try to cover up for him, since you must be the one to put him to death. Your hand must be the first against him to kill him, followed by the hands of the other people. Pelt him to death with stones, since he has tried to make you abandon HaShem , who brought you out of the slave house that was Egypt. When all Israel hears about it, they will be afraid, and they will never again do such an evil thing among you.
The Apostate City
This is what you must do if, with regard to one of your cities that HaShem is giving you as a place to live, you hear a report, stating that irresponsible men among you have been successful in leading the city’s inhabitants astray by saying, ‘Let us worship another god and have a novel spiritual experience.’
You must investigate and probe, making careful inquiry. If it is established to be true, and such a revolting thing has occurred in your midst, then you must kill all the inhabitants of the city by the sword. Destroy it and everything in it as taboo, and kill all its animals by the sword. Gather all the city’s goods to its central square, and burn the city along with all its goods, almost like a sacrifice to HaShem . The city shall then remain an eternal ruin, never again to be rebuilt. Let nothing that has been declared taboo there remain in your hands.
HaShem will then have mercy on you, and reverse any display of anger that might have existed. In His mercy, He will make you flourish, just as He promised your fathers.
You will have obeyed HaShem , keeping all the commandments that I prescribe to you today, and doing what is morally right in the eyes of HaShem .
Responsibilities of a Chosen People
You are children of HaShem . Do not mutilate yourselves and do not make a bald patch in the middle of your head as a sign of mourning. You are a nation consecrated to HaShem . HaShem has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation. Do not eat any abomination.
These are the mammals that you may eat: the ox, the sheep, the goat, the gazelle, the deer, the antelope, the ibex, the chamois, the bison, and the giraffe.
You may thus eat every animal that has a true hoof that is cloven into two parts, and which brings up its cud. However, among the animals that bring up their cud or have a true cloven hoof, there are some that you may not eat. These include the camel, hyrax and hare, which may bring up their cud, but do not have true hooves, and are therefore unclean to you. Also included is the pig, which has a true hoof, but does not have a cud, and is therefore unclean to you.
Do not eat the flesh of these animals and do not touch their carcasses.
Fish & Water Creatures
Among that which is in the water, you may eat anything that has fins and scales. But those which have no fins and scales, you may not eat, since they are unclean to you.
Birds & Flying Creatures
You may eat every kosher bird. The birds that you may not eat are the eagle, the ossifrage, the osprey, the white vulture, the black vulture, the kite, the entire raven family, the ostrich, owl, gull and hawk families, the falcon, the ibis, the swan, the pelican, the magpie, the cormorant, the stork, the heron family, the hoopoe, and the bat.
Every flying insect that is unclean to you shall not be eaten.
However, you may eat every kosher flying creature. Since you are a holy nation to HaShem , you may not eat any mammal or bird that has not been properly slaughtered. You may give it to the resident alien in your settlements so that he can eat it, or you may sell it to a foreigner.
Do not cook meat in milk even that of its mother.
The Second Tithe
Take a second tithe of all the seed crops that come forth in the field each year. You must eat this before HaShem in the place that He will choose as dedicated to His name. There you shall eat the second tithe of your grain, wine and oil, as well as the first-born of your cattle and smaller animals. You will then learn to remain in awe of HaShem for all time.
If the journey is too great for you, and HaShem has blessed you so that the place that HaShem has chosen as a site dedicated to His name is too far for you to carry it there, you may redeem the tithe for silver. The silver in your hand must consist of coinage, which you can bring to the place that HaShem will choose.
You may then spend the money on anything you desire, whether it be cattle, smaller animals, wine, brandy, or anything else for which you have an urge.
This, however, does not mean that you can abandon the Levite in your settlements. You must give him your first tithe since he has no hereditary portion with you.
Tithes for the Poor
At the end of each three year period, you must bring out all the tithes of that year’s crop, and place them in your settlements.
The Levite, who does not have a hereditary portion with you shall then come, along with the foreigner, orphan and widow in your settlement, and they will eat and be satisfied. HaShem will then bless you in everything that you do.
The Remission Year
At the end of every seven years, you shall celebrate the remission year. The idea of the remission year is that every creditor shall remit any debt owed by his neighbor and brother when HaShem’s remission year comes around.
You may collect from the alien, but if you have any claim against your brother for a debt, you must relinquish it. HaShem will then bless you in the land that HaShem is giving you to occupy as a heritage, and there will not be any more poor among you. This, however, will be true only if you obey the word of HaShem , carefully keeping this entire mandate that I am prescribing to you today.
HaShem will then bless you as He promised you, so that you will extend credit to many nations, but you will not need any credit for yourselves. You will thus dominate many nation, but none will dominate you.
When, in a settlement in the land that HaShem is giving you, any of your brothers is poor, do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother. Open your hand generously, and extend to him any credit he needs to take care of his wants. Be very careful that you not have an irresponsible idea and say to yourself, ‘The seventh year is approaching, and it will be the remission year.’ You may then look unkindly at your impoverished brother, and not give him anything. If he then complains to HaShem about you, you will have a sin.
Therefore, make every effort to give him, and do not feel bad about giving it, since HaShem will then bless you in all your endeavours, no matter what you do. The poor will never cease to exist in the land, so I am commanding you to open your hand generously to your poor and destitute brother in your land.
The Israelite Slave
When your fellow Hebrew man or woman is sold to you, he may serve as much as six years, but in the seventh year you must send him away free. When you send him away free, do not send him empty-handed. Give him a severance gift from your flocks, from your threshing floor, and from your wine vat, so that he will have a share of all the things through which HaShem has blessed you. You will thus remember that you were a slave in Egypt and HaShem liberated you. It is for this reason that I am commanding you today to do this. If the slave likes you and your family, and has it so good with you that he says, ‘I do not want to leave you,’ then you must take an awl, and place it through his ear and the door. He will then become your permanent slave.
You must also grant a severance gift to your female slave.
Do not think it difficult to send your slave away free. He has done double the work of a hired hand during the six years, and HaShem will bless you in all you do.
You must consecrate to HaShem every male firstling born among your cattle and flocks. Do not work with your first-born ox, and do not shear your first-born sheep.
You and your family must eat them before HaShem each year in the place that HaShem shall choose. If the animal has a blemish, such as when it is crippled or blind, or afflicted with any other serious blemish, you may not sacrifice it to HaShem . The clean and unclean may then eat it in your settlements, just like the deer and gazelle.
Do not eat its blood, but spill it on the ground like water.
Safeguard the month of standing grain so that you will be able to keep the Passover to HaShem , since it was in the month of standing grain that HaShem brought you out of Egypt at night.
In the place that HaShem will choose to be dedicated to His name, you shall sacrifice the Passover offering to HaShem (along with other) sheep and cattle. Do not eat any leaven with it. As part of the celebration you shall eat Matzah for seven days. This shall be hardship bread, since you left Egypt in a rush. You will then remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life.
No leavening shall be seen with you in all your borders for seven days. Do not let the flesh that you sacrificed in the evening of the first day remain overnight until morning. You may not slaughter the Passover offering in any of your settlements which HaShem is giving you.
The only site where you may sacrifice the Passover offering is in the place that HaShem will choose as a site designated in His name.
There you shall sacrifice it in the evening, as the sun is setting, at the time of year that you left Egypt.
You shall cook it and eat it in the place chosen by HaShem , and then you may turn around in the morning and return to your tents.
For six additional days you shall then eat Matzah, with the seventh day as a retreat dedicated to HaShem , when you may not do any work.
Then count seven weeks for yourself. From the time that you first put the sickle to the standing grain, you must count seven weeks.
You shall then celebrate the festival of Shavuot to HaShem , presenting a hand-delivered offering according to the extent of the blessing that HaShem has granted you.
You shall rejoice before HaShem in the place that HaShem shall choose to be designated in His name. You shall rejoice along with your sons, your daughters, your male and female slaves, the Levites from your settlements, and the proselytes, orphans and widows among you. You must remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and thus carefully keep all these rules.
When you bring in the products of your threshing floor and wine vat, you shall celebrate the festival of Sukkot for seven days.
You shall rejoice on your festival along with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite, proselyte, orphan and widow from your settlements.
Celebrate to HaShem for seven days in the place that HaShem will choose, since HaShem will then bless you in all your agricultural and other endeavours, so that you will be only happy. Three times each year, all your males shall thus be seen in the presence of HaShem in the place that He will choose: on the festival of Matzahs, on the festival of Shavuot, and on the festival of Sukkot. In those times you shall not appear before HaShem empty-handed.
Each person shall bring his hand-delivered gift, depending on the blessing that HaShem grants you.
The Next Parsha : Shoftim Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9
The Next Haftara: Isaiah 51.12-52.12