The following article is reprinted with permission from Jewish Family & Life!
In his last speech to the Israelites, Moses warns them, "If you follow God’s laws, you will be blessed more than all the peoples of the earth. However, if you worship false idols and ignore the other commandments, then you shall be cursed and perish.
"These are the statutes which you are to carry out. You shall utterly destroy the places where the nations, whose property you are taking over, served other gods. You shall destroy their altars, break up their memorial stones, burn down their sacred trees, cut down the images of their gods, and you shall obliterate their gods from that place.
"Then, from among all your tribes, God will choose a place to give God’s Name habitation. When you search for the manifestation of God’s Presence, you will come to this place that God chooses. It is there that you will bring offerings and donations. There, before God, shall you eat with family and servants and the Levites, who have no portion or inheritance. All will rejoice before God.
"Take care to make offerings only in the place where the Lord chooses. But whenever you desire, you may slaughter and eat meat in any of your settlements, according to the blessing that the Lord God has granted you, but you must not partake of the blood. You shall pour blood out on the ground like water.
"You must not eat your tithes of new grain or wine or oil or the firstlings of your flocks or any of your offerings. These you and your household must consume before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose.
"Take heed that you do not follow the lead of the nations who once dwelled in your land. Do not inquire about their gods or how to serve them. For everything that is detested by God, everything God hates, have they done. For they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire for their gods.
"Do not add or subtract from these commandments. If there arises among you a prophet or receiver of dreams, and if he gives you a sign and that sign comes to pass, and if he then says, ‘Let us go after other gods and serve them,’ stop. Do not hearken to that person’s words, because God is testing you with this to know whether you truly love your God with all your heart and all your soul. You shall only follow and fear your God.
"Then the receiver of dreams shall be put to death, for he has uttered untruth concerning God, your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of slavery. Do not listen to anyone, family or friend, who urges you to follow other gods. Rather you, yourself, must bring him to death for leading you away from God.
"You are the sons of God, your God, so do not cut yourselves nor shave your heads in mourning.
"You shall not eat anything abhorrent. You may eat any animal that has true hoofs that are cleft in two and brings up the cud, like sheep, goats and oxen. Those with a cleft hoof, you may not eat, like camel and rabbits. Also the pig, for though it has true hoofs it does not bring up its cud, so it is unclean.
"Of all that live in the water, you may eat anything that has fins and scales. You may eat any clean bird. You may not eat the eagle, the vulture, raven hawks, owls, storks and bats among others. All winged swarming things are unclean for you. You shall not eat anything that has died a natural death–give it to the stranger in your community to eat or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God.
"You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk. You shall set aside every year a tenth part of all the yield from your produce. Every third year, you shall have a full tithe on your field and leave it within your settlements. During that time the Levite who has no hereditary portion, and the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow in your settlements shall come and eat their fill, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all your enterprises.
"Every seventh year, you shall practice a release. Every kinsman creditor shall release from his hand his debt. The debtor may no longer claim payment because of this release for the sake of God. In the promised land, you shall open up your hand to the needy and lend him what is sufficient for his need, for what he lacks.
"You shall free your Hebrew slave in the seventh year. Do not send him away to freedom empty handed, but provide for him out of your flock and your wine press, that which your God has blessed for you. Remember that you were once a slave in Egypt when God redeemed you. If, however, the slave wants to stay, then he may do so as a bondsman or handmaid.
"Remember to make the offerings of the firstlings and make sacrifices to God with clean animals, those which are neither lame nor blind or blemished. Keep the Pesach offering to God, your God; for that is the eternal reminder of the time when God took you out of slavery to freedom. You shall only eat unleavened bread for seven days in this memory of our God-given exodus. There shall be a Sabbath on the seventh day of this Passover holiday.
"Then, count seven weeks, and you shall come to the Festival of Weeks. Then you shall give a gift of your hand to God, such that God will bless you and you shall rejoice before the Lord. You will rejoice with your family and servants, with the Levites, with stranger, orphan and widow in your midst. You will come in the place that God will choose to give God’s presence.
"Then in the Festival of huts, You shall make huts and celebrate before God for all the produce, all the harvests, in all the work of your hands.
"Three times each year shall all your males appear in the immediate Presence of your God, in the place that God will choose: on the Festival of Matzah, on the Festival of Weeks, and the Festival of Huts. He shall not appear in the immediate Presence of God empty-handed. Every person must give according to the gift of his hand, in accordance with the blessing of God, your God, that God has given you.
Questions For Discussion
1) In everyday life, how do you think God blesses and curses us?
2) Why is what we eat so important that Moses adds it to his last speech before the people?
3) What does it mean that in the promised land God will choose a place to give God’s Name habitation? Is there such a place in your community?
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