This parashah continues Moses’ discourse, now going into the second of Three Discourses, this one concentrating on the laws that he has given.
He tells the people when they enter the land to write a blessing on Mount Gerizim and a curse on Mount Ebal. He orders that all the pagan people and their altars be completely destroyed and that the Israelites are not to follow any of their practices.
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When the Israelites sacrifice to God, it must be done at the place where God puts his name (initially this is the Tent of Meeting at Shiloh, later King David moves it to Jerusalem; after Solomon finished the temple, that was and still is the only place where God has set his name.)
Moses warns about false prophets and those who entice others to worship the pagan, Semitic gods of the people who live there. He states that anyone, even a close family member, who tries to apostatize the people must be put to death.
He again warns the people not to do whatever they think is right, but to follow God’s instructions. This parashah ends with Moses reiterating the laws regarding Kashrut (Kosher), rules regarding the Jubilee Year, and the Moedim (Holy Days).
When I read the passage in Chapter 12, verse 8 I was struck by how it is exactly what I read, more than once, in the Book of Judges (Shoftim). Here is that passage, straight out of my Chumash:
Ye shall not do after all that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes;...
When we read Judges 17:6 and 21:25, we are told this is exactly what the people did. There was no king in Israel, and every man did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. And throughout the Book of Judges, the people bob up and down like a log on a wavy ocean, going from proper worship to paganism, from subjugation to rulership, back and forth, over and over, depending on what phase of their worship they were in at that time.
When they did what God said to do they were blessed and protected; but then they got haughty and prideful, did what they wanted to do, and were cursed and conquered. After being enslaved by one of their enemies for a while, they did T’shuvah (turning from sin), pleaded for God to rescue them and he sent a Judge to do that.
Then they repeated the same pattern.
This is still happening today. Those who profess to be doing what they know to be right, which goes against God’s word, seem to be victorious for a while, but end up in trouble. There is always someone, some country, some leader, doing wrong and stating that it is what they must do because it is the right thing to do.
I learned a long time ago that people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. When someone is doing what they “know” to be right, if they haven’t first confirmed that action as being in accordance with God’s instructions, then no matter what they say their motivation is, it is simply them doing what seems right in their own eyes.
And the Bible teaches us, undoubtedly, that when we do what is right in our own eyes, we are wrong. And we are told that, precisely, in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25 (it is such an important lesson, I guess they had to tell us twice):
There can be a way which seems right to a person, but at its end are the ways of death.
Too many people say they are doing what is right, but it is really only what they want to do. They make lame excuses or create their own facts to justify their actions, but in the end, it always comes to trouble.
In this parashah, we are told to beware of false prophets and that we will know them as such when what they say doesn’t come about, or by the intent of their prophecy, i.e. if they are telling us that we should worship other gods. Maybe we should look to the people telling us what to do as being prophets, leading us today. When we are told what to do to contain the virus, yet 5 months later a two-week gestational period virus is still running rampant, is what we are being told really the right thing? When people say they are protesting against racial inequality, but do so by burning, looting, rioting and murdering people, mostly those who are the ones they are supposedly protecting the rights of, can we say that is right in God’s eyes? Or is it that they are just doing what they want to do?
People must use discernment and judge correctly- NOT based on what they feel is right, but based solely on what God says is right, and what he says is right is right here in the Torah!
Decide for yourself if you will follow what people say is right, or what God says is right because you will be held accountable for what you do, no matter who told you to do it.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!