Moshe presents to the nation the blessing of a spiritually oriented life, and the curse of becoming disconnected from Hashem. When the nation enters Eretz Yisrael they must burn down any trees that had been used for idol-worship, and destroy all idolatrous statues. Hashem will choose only one place where the Divine Presence will dwell. Offerings may be brought only there; not to a private altar. Moshe repeatedly warns against eating animal blood. In the desert, all meat was slaughtered in the Mishkan, but in Eretz Yisrael meat may be shechted anywhere. Moshe lists the categories of food that may only be eaten in Jerusalem. He warns the nation against copying ways of the other nations. Since the Torah is complete and perfect, nothing may be added or subtracted from it. If a "prophet" tells the people to permanently abandon a Torah law or indulge in idol worship, he is to be put to death. One who entices others to worship idols is to be put to death. A city of idolatry must be razed. It is prohibited to show excessive signs of mourning, such as marking the skin or making a bald spot. Moshe reiterates the classifications of kosher and non-kosher food and the prohibition of cooking meat and milk. Produce of the second tithe must be eaten in Jerusalem, and if the amount is too large to carry, it may be exchanged for money with which food is bought in Jerusalem. In certain years this tithe is given to the poor. Bnei Yisrael are instructed to always be open-hearted, and in the seventh year any loans must be relinquished - Hashem will bless the person in all ways. A Jewish bondsman is released after six years, and must be sent away with generous provisions. If he refuses to leave, his ear is pierced with an awl at the door post and he remains a bondsman until the Jubilee year. The Parsha ends with a description of the three pilgrimage festivals of Pesach, Shavuot and Succot.
“For there will arise in your midst a prophet...” (13:2)
In this week’s Torah portion there is an uncanny warning about a situation that we ourselves are witnessing today. We live in an era where many Jews are a prey to the missionaries of other religions. The Torah warns us about three ways that a person can be enticed away from Judaism.
He can be blinded by the charisma of a star, a celebrity, or a ‘guru’ who seems far-sighted. Through sheer force of personality, such a person can lure Jews away from Judaism. The Torah warns us about this form of enticement when it says, “Do not listen to the words of that prophet.” (13:4)
Sometimes a sibling can turn a person away from Judaism: “Judaism has nothing to offer. Look I’m your brother. Listen to me. Why don’t you come for a weekend retreat with the ‘Master’? I promise you it will be okay. Who needs telephones anyway?” Against this form of attack the Torah tells us “If your brother...or your son or your daughter or (your) wife ...or your friend who is like your own soul should entice you secretly saying ‘Let us go and worship the gods of others ...from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth ...do not accede to him and to not listen to him...” (13:7)
The third attack is the onslaught of peer pressure — not wanting to be out of step in the march of the masses. Fashions in ideas are as transitory as fashions in clothes. The dedicated follower of fashion is a prey to every new ‘ism’ that comes along. He’s at the mercy of the mind of the mob. Corresponding to this form of brainwashing, the Torah says “Lawless men have emerged from your midst, and they have caused the dwellers of their city to go astray saying ‘Let us go and worship the gods of others...’ ” (13:15)