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בנים אתם לד' אלקיכם

You are children to Hashem, your G-d. (14:1)

Being children to Hashem, banim laMakom, demands that we live our lives on a higher standard. What may be an acceptable practice for the pagan culture in which we live is detestable for us. If many of our co-religionists would realize the depth of meaning which the concept of banim laMakom implies, they would change their attitude and way of life. The term banim, children (of), intimates that they have a Father who has expectations. Parents love their children unconditionally. Furthermore, a biological child remains so irrevocably, regardless of the child’s negative actions. A child identifies with his parents; thus,…

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בנים אתם לד' אלקיכם לא תתגדדו

You are children to Hashem, your G-d… you shall not cut yourselves. (14:1)

Self-mutilation is prohibited by the Torah. Rashi explains the connection of this prohibition to our pedigree as banim laMakom, children of Hashem. “Since you are the sons of Hashem, it is appropriate to look nice and not mutilated.” Obviously, it is not simply about appearances. It goes much deeper. The fact that we are Hashem’s children is not merely a nice concept; it is a verity that is so real that it becomes the source of a halachah. Chazal teach (Kiddushin 40a) that one who eats publicly in the marketplace is compared to a dog. One opinion even contends that…

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ונצתם את מזבחתם... ואבדתם את שמם... לא תעשון כן לד' אלקיכם

You shall break apart their altars… You shall obliterate their names… You shall not do this to Hashem, your G-d. (12:3,4)

A remembrance of the idols that once dotted the country should not remain in the Land. Chazal understood that Moshe Rabbeinu had no need to admonish the nation not to destroy the Bais HaMikdash or the mikdash me’at, smaller representation of the Temple, the shuls;   rather, he was exhorting the people not to burn incense whenever they so desired. This was a Canaanite practice. Alternatively, Jews are prohibited from erasing Hashem’s Name or destroying a stone from the Mizbayach, Altar. Last, we are enjoined to act appropriately, so that our sins not catalyze the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash.    The…

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והיה כי יבאך ד' אלקיך אל ארץ אשר אתה בא שמה לרשתה ונתתה את הברכה על הר גריזים ואת הקללה על הר עיבל

It shall be when Hashem, your G-d, brings you to the Land to which you come to possess it, then you shall deliver the blessing on Har Gerizim and the curse on Har Eival. (11:29)

As the nation prepared to enter the Land, Hashem instructed them to initiate a new covenant upon entering Eretz Yisrael. One does not enter Eretz Yisrael unless he first prepares himself with the appropriate sense of submission born of awe. Kabbolas haTorah, receiving the Torah forty years earlier, carried them along their journey through the wilderness. A new generation was preparing to enter the Land. In the Plains of Moav this new generation also received an induction into kabbolas ol Malchus Shomayim, accepting upon themselves the yoke of the Heavenly Kingdom. The covenant into which the nation was now entering…

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וזה אשר לא תאכלו ... והחסידה

This is what you shall not eat…the chasidah. (14:12,18)

As the designated Banim atem la’Hashem Elokeichem, “Children to Hashem, your G-d” (ibid 14:1), we must act in accordance with our special status. It should serve as a source of pride and obligation. The Torah enjoins us with certain prohibitions which are entirely acceptable to the gentile world, but, to Hashem’s children, are an anathema. Among these prohibitions are the Jewish dietary laws which prohibit us from consuming certain animals, fowl and fish. Among the fowl, the Torah lists specific fowl which are considered unkosher due to their “character” which, of course, only the Creator Who created them knows. Among…

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לא תאבה לו ולא תשמע אליו ולא תחוס עינך עליו ולא תחמל ולא תכסה עליו

You shall not accede to him and not hearken to him; your eye shall not take pity on him, you shall not be compassionate nor conceal him. (13:9)

“With prejudice” is legalese for dismissing a case/plaintiff permanently. The case is over and done with. No one is interested in rehashing it or listening to any appeals for clemency. Concerning the meisis/meidiach, one who entices others to go astray, the Torah goes to great lengths to underscore its disdain for anyone who would entice another Jew to worship idols. Regardless of the victim’s relationship with the enticer, he must turn him in and see that he is brought to justice. Although the Jewish court is to manifest utmost compassion and seek every avenue to look for extenuating circumstances that…

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כי יסיתך אחיך ... לאמר נלכה ונעבדה אלהים אחרים אשר לא ידעת אתה ואבתיך

If your brothers… will incite you… saying, “Let us go and worship the gods of others,” that you did not know, you or your forefathers. (13:7)

Rashi explains the meaning of, “That you did not know, you or your forefathers”: “This matter is of great disgrace to you. For even the other nations (pagans) do not reject what their ancestors passed on to them, but this meisis, inciter, says to you, ‘Abandon what your ancestors passed on to you.’” Why does Rashi point the finger at the individual who is being incited to leave Judaism, intimating that it is humiliating to him to reject the traditions of his forebears, when, in fact, the individual who should be humiliated is the one who is acting disgracefully –…

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ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה. את הברכה אשר תשמעו.

See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. The blessing that you listen. (11:26,27)

Noticeably, the Torah begins with Re’eh, see, in the singular (instead of Re’u) in the plural form; then, it writes lifneichem, before you, in the plural (not lifanecha in the singular form) and concludes with, asher tishme’u, plural that you listen (not tishma) singular. In his Aderes Eliyahu, the Gaon, zl, m’Vilna, explains that the Aseres HaDibros, Ten Commandments, are spoken to Klal Yisrael in the singular, because when they stood at Har Sinai, all of Klal Yisrael were standing k’ish echad b’lev echad, as one person with one heart. Their unity was complete. Thus, Hashem spoke to them as…

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ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

See, I present before you today, a blessing and a curse. (11:26)

It all boils down to choices. It is either a blessing or a curse. We really cannot have it both ways. A blessing that ends up as a curse is not much of a blessing. Why is it that some of us become victim to the “poor choice syndrome”? Why can we not look at a poor choice for what is, and just say, “No”? It is the yetzer hora, evil inclination, who does an excellent job of concealing the curse in our poor choices. In fact, he often presents it as a blessing, and we fall for his ruse….

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ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה

See, I present before you today a blessing and a curse. (11:26)

Hayom, today. Does the word “today” hold significance? Is the choice of blessing or curse applicable only today? What about tomorrow? Will we still have the opportunity for choice? I was thinking about this question when I came across an article by a respected rabbinic author in which he explained why he was not celebrating his birthday. He attributes this to the fact that, upon perusing the Torah, one notes that the only birthday we read about is that of Pharaoh. When we think about it, the only day that we Jews seem to deem worthy of celebration is the…

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