Deuteronomy 3:23 – 7:11
Moses’ Plea to Enter the Holy Land
At that time I pleaded with you, saying, “O HaShem! You have begun to show me Your greatness and Your display of power. What Force is there in heaven or earth who can perform deeds and mighty acts as You do? Please let me cross the Jordan river. Let me see the good land across the Jordan, the good mountain and the Lebanon. But HaShem had turned Himself against me because of you, and He would not listen to me.”
HaShem said to me, “Enough! Do not speak to Me any more about this! Climb to the top of the cliff, and gaze to the west, north, south and east. Let your eyes feast on it, since you will not cross the Jordan. Give Joshua instructions, strengthening him and giving him courage, since he will be the one to lead these people across, and he will parcel out to them the land that you will see.”
At that time we were staying in the valley facing Beth Peor.
Foundations of the Faith
Now, Israel, listen to the rules and laws that I am teaching you to do, so that you will remain alive and come to occupy the land that HaShem, Lord of your fathers, is giving you. Do not add to the word that I am commanding you, and do not subtract from it. You must keep all the commandments of HaShem your Lord, which I am instructing you. You have see with your own eyes what HaShem did at the Baal Peor episode. HaShem your Lord annihilated every person among you who followed Baal Peor. Only you, the ones who remained attached to HaShem your Lord, are all alive today.
See! I have taught you rules and laws as HaShem my Lord has commanded me, so that you will be able to keep them in the land to which you are coming and which you will be occupying. Safeguard and keep these rules, since this is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations. They will hear all these rules and say, “This great nation is certainly a wise and understanding people.”
What nation is so great that they have HaShem close to it, as HaShem our Lord is, whenever we call Him? What nation is so great that they have such righteous rules and laws, like this entire Torah that I am presenting before you today? Only take heed and watch yourself very carefully, so that you do not forget the things that your eyes saw. Do not let this memory leave your hearts, all the days of your lives. Teach your children and children’s children about the day you stood before HaShem your Lord at Horeb.
It was then that HaShem said to me, “Gather the people for Me, and I will let them hear My words. This will teach them to be in awe of Me as long as they live on earth, and they will also teach their children.” You came to Me and stood at the foot of the mountain. The mountain was burning with a fire reaching the heart of heaven, with darkness, cloud and mist. Then HaShem spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no image; there was only a voice. He announced to you His covenant, instructing you to keep the Ten Commandments, and He wrote them on two stone tablets.
At that time, HaShem commanded me to teach you rules and laws, so that you will keep them in the land which you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. Watch yourselves very carefully, since you did not see any image on the day that HaShem spoke to you out of the fire at Horeb.
You shall therefore not become corrupt and make a statue depicting any symbol. Do not make any male or female image, or the image of any animal on earth, any winged creature that flies in the sky, any lower form of land animal, or any animal that lives in the water below the earth.
When you raise your eyes to the sky, and see the sun, moon, stars and other heavenly bodies, do not bow down to them or worship them. It was to all the other nations under the heavens that HaShem made them a portion. But you, HaShem Himself took, and He brought you out of the iron crucible that was Egypt, so that you would be His heritage nation, as you are today. HaShem displayed anger at me because of your words, and He swore that I would not cross the Jordan, and that I would not come to the good land that HaShem your Lord is giving you as a heritage.
I will die in this land and will not cross the Jordan, while you will be the ones to cross and occupy the good land. Be careful that you not forget the covenant that HaShem your Lord made with you. Do not make for yourself any statue image that is forbidden by HaShem.
HaShem your Lord is like a consuming fire, a G-d demanding exclusive allegiance.
Allegiance to HaShem
When you have children and grandchildren, and have been established in the land for a long time, you might become decadent and make a statue of some image, committing an evil act in the eyes of HaShem your Lord and making Him angry. I call heaven and earth as witnesses for you today that you will then quickly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to occupy. You will not remain there very long, since you will be utterly destroyed.
HaShem will then scatter you among the nations, and only a small number will remain among the nations to which HaShem will lead you. There you will serve gods that men have made out of wood and stone, which cannot see, hear, eat or smell. Then you will begin to seek HaShem your Lord, and if you pursue Him with all your heart and soul, you will eventually find Him. When you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, you will finally return to HaShem your Lord and obey Him. HaShem your Lord is a merciful Power, and He will not abandon you or destroy you; He will not forget the oath He made upholding your fathers’ covenant.
You might ask about times long past, going back to the time that HaShem created man on earth, exploring one end of the heavens to the other. See if anything as great as this has ever happened, or if the like has ever been heard. Has any nation ever heard HaShem speaking out of fire, as you have, and still survived? Has HaShem ever done miracles bringing one nation out of another nation with such tremendous miracles, signs, wonders, war, a mighty hand and outstretched arm, and terrifying phenomena, as HaShem did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will know that HaShem is the Supreme Being, and there is none besides Him. From the heavens, He let you hear His voice admonishing you, and on earth He showed you His great fire, so that you heard His words from the fire. It was because He loved your fathers, and chose their children after them, that HaShem Himself brought you out of Egypt with His great power.
He will drive away before you nations that are greater and stronger than you, so as to bring you to their lands, and give them to you as a heritage, as He is doing today. Realize it today and ponder it in your heart: HaShem is the Supreme Being in heaven above and on the earth beneath – there is no other.
Keep His decrees and commandments that I am presenting to you today, so that He will be good to you and your children after you. Then you will endure for a long time in the land that HaShem your Lord is giving you for all time.
Moses then designated three cities on the east of the Jordan, toward the rising sun, where a murderer could escape. If a person killed his neighbor without intent and without prior enmity, he would be able to escape to one of these cities and live.
The cities were Betzer in the desert flatlands for the Reubenites, Ramoth in the Gilead for the Gaddites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.
This is the law that Moses presented before the Israelites. These are the rituals, rules and laws that Moses discussed with the Israelites when they left Egypt. They were now on the east bank of the Jordan, in the valley opposite Beth Peor in the land of Sichon, king of Cheshbon, whom Moses and the Israelites had defeated when they left Egypt. The Israelites occupied Sichon’s land, as well as the land of Og, King of Bashan. These were the two Amorite kings to the east of the Jordan.
The land extended from Aro’er on the edge of the of the Arnon Gorge, to Mount Siyon, also known as Hermon, as well as the entire flood plain on the east bank of the Jordan, as far as the Aravah Sea under the rapids flowing from the cliff.
Review of the Ten Commandments
Moses summoned all Israel, and said to them: Listen, Israel, to the rules and laws that I am publicly declaring to you today. Learn them and safeguard them, so that you will be able to keep them. HaShem your Lord made a covenant with you at Horeb. It was not with your ancestors that HaShem made this covenant, but with us – those of us who are still alive here today. On the mountain, HaShem spoke to you face to face out of the fire. I stood between you and HaShem at that time, to tell you God’s words, since you were afraid of the fire, and did not go up on the mountain. HaShem then declared the Ten Commandments.
The First Two Commandments
I am HaShem your Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, from the place of slavery.Do not have any other gods before Me. Do not represent such gods by a statue or picture of anything in the heaven above, on the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to such gods and do not worship them. I, HaShem your Lord, am a HaShem who demands exclusive worship. Where My enemies are concerned, I keep in mind the sin of the fathers for their descendants for three and four generations. But to those who love Me, and keep My commandments, I show love for thousands of generations.
The Third Commandment
Do not take the name of HaShem your Lord in vain. HaShem will not allow the person who takes His name in vain to go unpunished.
The Fourth Commandment
Observe the Sabbath to keep it holy, as HaShem your Lord commanded you. You can work during the six weekdays, and do all your tasks, but Saturday is the Sabbath to HaShem your Lord, so do not do anything that constitutes work. This includes you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slave, your ox, your donkey, your other animals, and the foreigner who is in your gates. Your male and female slaves will then be able to rest just as you do.You must remember that you were slaves in Egypt, when HaShem your Lord brought you out with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. It is for this reason that HaShem your Lord has commanded you to keep the Sabbath.
The Fifth Commandment
Honor your father and mother as HaShem your Lord commanded you. You will then live long and have it well on the land that HaShem your Lord is giving you.
The Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth Commandments
Do not commit murder.
Do not commit adultery.
Do not steal.
Do not testify as a false witness against your neighbor.
The Tenth Commandment
Do not desire your neighbor’s wife.
Do not desire your neighbor’s house, his field, his male or female slave, his ox, his donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.
After the Revelation at Sinai
HaShem spoke these words in a loud voice to your entire assembly from the mountain, out of the fire, cloud and mist, but He added no more. He wrote these words on two stone tablets, and later gave them to me.When you heard the voice out of the darkness, with the mountain burning in flames, your tribal leaders and elders approached me.
You said, “It is true that HaShem our Lord has showed us His glory and greatness, and we have heard His voice out of the fire. Today we have seen that when HaShem speaks to man, he can still survive. ” But now, why should we die? Why should this great fire consume us? If we hear the voice of HaShem our Lord any more, we will die!
“What mortal has heard the voice of the living HaShem speaking out of fire as we did and has survived? You approach HaShem our Lord, and listen to all He says. You can transmit to us whatever HaShem our Lord tells you, and when we hear it, we will do it.”
HaShem heard what you said, and HaShem told me, “I have heard what this nation has said to you. They have spoken well. If only their hearts would always remain this way, where they are in such awe of Me. They would then keep all My commandments for all time, so that it would go well with them and their children forever. Go tell them to return to their tents. You, however, must remain here with Me. I will declare to you all the rules and laws that you shall teach them, so they will keep them in the land that I am giving them to occupy.”
Be careful to do what HaShem your Lord has commanded you, not turning to the right or left. Follow the entire way that HaShem your Lord has commanded you, so that you may live and do well, enduring for a long time on the land that you are going to occupy.
This is the mandate, the rules and the laws that HaShem your Lord commanded [me] to teach you, so that you shall keep them in the land you are crossing over to occupy. Remain in awe of HaShem your Lord, so that you will keep all His rules and laws that I am telling to you. You, your children and your children’s children must keep them as long as they live, so that you will long endure.
Listen, Israel, and be careful to do it. Things will then go well for you and you will increase very much in the land flowing with milk and honey, just as HaShem, Lord of your fathers, promised you.
Shema: The Creed
Listen, Israel, HaShem is our Lord, HaShem is One. Love HaShem your Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. These words which I am commanding you today must remain on your heart. Teach them to your children and speak of them when you are at home, when traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind these words as a sign on your hand, and let them be an emblem in the center of your head. Also write them on parchments affixed to the doorposts of your houses and gates.
Dangers of Prosperity
When HaShem your Lord brings you to the land that He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that He would give to you, you will find great, flourishing cities that you did not build. You will also have houses filled with all good things that you did not put there, finished cisterns that you did not quarry, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant. You will eat and be satisfied, but be careful that you do not forget HaShem, who is the One who brought you out of Egypt, the place of slavery. Remain in awe of HaShem, serve Him, and swear by His name. Do not follow other deities, such as the gods of the nations around you.
Keeping the Commandments
HaShem your Lord is demanding exclusive allegiance from you. Do not cause His anger to be unleashed against you, since it will destroy you from the face of the earth. Do not test HaShem as you tested Him in Massah. Be very careful to keep the commandments of HaShem as well as the rituals and decrees that He commanded you. Do what is upright and good in His eyes, so that He will be good to you. You will then come and occupy the good land that HaShem promised your fathers. As HaShem promised, He will repulse all your enemies before you.
Recalling the Exodus
In the future, your child may ask you, “What are the rituals, rules and laws that HaShem our Lord has commanded you?” You must tell him, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, but HaShem brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. HaShem directed great and terrible miracles against Pharaoh and all his household before our very eyes. We are the ones He brought out of there, to bring us to the land He promised our fathers, and give it to us. HaShem commanded us to keep all these rules, so that we would remain in awe of HaShem for all time, so that we would survive, even as we are today. It is our privilege to safeguard and keep this entire mandate before HaShem as He commanded us.”
Warnings Against Assimilation
When HaShem your Lord brings you to the land you are entering, so that you can occupy it, He will uproot many nations before you – the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites and Yebusites – seven nations more numerous and powerful than you are. When HaShem places them at your disposal and you defeat them, you must utterly destroy them, not making any treaty with them or giving them any consideration.
Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons, and do not take their daughters for your sons. If you do, they will lead your children away from Me, causing them to worship other gods. HaShem will then display His anger against you, and you will quickly be destroyed. What you must do to them is tear down their altars, break their sacred pillars, cut down their Asherah trees, and burn their idols in fire.
You are a nation consecrated to HaShem. HaShem chose you to be His special people among all the nations on the face of the earth. It was not because you had greater numbers than all the other nations that HaShem embraced you and chose you; you are among the smallest of all the nations. It was because of His love for you, and because He was keeping the oath that He made to your fathers. HaShem therefore brought you out with a mighty hand, liberating you from the slave house, and from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
You must realize that HaShem is the Supreme Being. He is the faithful One, who keeps in mind His covenant and love for a thousand generations when it comes to those who love Him and keep His commandments. But He pays back His enemies to their face to destroy them. He does not delay the payment that He gives His enemies to their face. So safeguard the mandate, the rules and laws that I am teaching you today, so that you will keep them.
This is the first of seven “Prophecies of Comfort” that are read between the 9th of Av and Rosh Hashanah,
“Comfort, comfort my people – says HaShem” their exile is over. The Haftara talks about the bright future that the people of Israel are destined have.
- Forty-Fifth of 54 Sedras in the Torah
- Written on 249 lines in the Sefer Torah
- 122 P’sukim (verses)
- 1,878 words
- 7,343 letters
Next week’s Parashat: Ekev