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Deuteronomy Chapter 18
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The Levitical Priests
18:1 The Levitical priests [and] the entire tribe of Levi shall not have a territorial portion with [the rest of] Israel, and they shall [therefore] eat God's fire offerings and [their] hereditary gifts.
18:2 Since God shall be their heritage, as He promised them, they shall not have any [territorial] heritage among their brethren.

The Priestly Portion
18:3 This shall be the law [of what the] priests [receive] from the people:

When any ox sheep or goat is slaughtered as food, you must give the priest the foreleg, the jaw and the maw.

18:4 You must [also] give him the first portion of your grain, wine and oil, and the first of your shearing.
18:5 This is because God your Lord has chosen him and his descendants out of all your tribes to stand and serve in God's name for all time.

Special Service
18:6 The Levitical [priest], no matter where he lives among all the Israelites, can come to the place that God shall choose on a festival, [or] whenever else he wishes to [bring his own sacrifice].
18:7 He can then serve before God his Lord just the same as any of his fellow Levitical [priests] whose turn it is to serve before God.
18:8 [On the festivals], he shall receive the same portion that they do to eat. The only exception is that which [is theirs] by ancestral right.

Divination and Prophecy
18:9 When you come to the land that God your Lord is giving you, do not learn to do the revolting practices of those nations.
18:10 Among you, there shall not be found anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, who practices stick divination, who divines auspicious times, who divines by omens, who practices witchcraft,
18:11 who uses incantations, who consults mediums and oracles, or who attempts to communicate with the dead.
18:12 Anyone involved in these practices is repulsive to God, and it was because of repulsive practices such as these that God your Lord is driving out [these nations] before you.
18:13 You must [therefore] remain totally faithful to God your Lord.
18:14 The nations that you are driving out listen to astrologers and stick diviners, but what God has given you is totally different.
18:15 In your midst, God will set up for you a prophet like me from among your brethren, and it is to him that you must listen.
18:16 This is a result of the request that you made of God your Lord at Horeb on the Day of Assembly, [when you] said, 'We cannot listen to the voice of God our Lord any more! We cannot look at this great fire any more! We do not want to die!'
18:17 God then said to me, 'They have spoken well.
18:18 I will set up a prophet for them from among their brethren, just as you are. I will place My word in his mouth, and he will declare to them all that I command him.
18:19 If any person does not listen to the word that he declares in My name, I will punish [that person].
18:20 Conversely, if a prophet presumptuously makes a declaration in My name when I have not commanded him to do so, or if he speaks in the name of other gods, then that prophet shall die.'
18:21 You may ask yourselves, 'How shall we recognize that a declaration was not spoken by God?'
18:22 If the prophet predicts something in God's name, and the prediction does not materialize or come true, then the message was not spoken by God. That prophet has spoken deceitfully, and you must not fear him.



Commentary:

and
  (Saadia; cf. Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative 169, 170).

therefore
  (Saadia).

fire offerings
  Portions of sacrifices eaten by priests.

hereditary gifts
  Agricultural offerings (Sifri; Rashi).

This shall be the law
  See Numbers 18:8-19.

ox
  A cow or bull.

sheep or goat
  The Hebrew seh includes both.

foreleg
  The right foreleg (Chullin 134b; Yad, Bikkurim 9:18; Yoreh Deah 61:2).

jaw
  The lower jaw (Yad, Bikkurim 9:18).

the maw
  Kebhah in Hebrew. This is the last of a cow's four stomachs (Rashi, Chullin 42a, s.v. Beth; Yoreh Deah 48:1).

first portion
  This is the 'elevated gift' (Terumah) in Numbers 18:11 (Rashi).

first....shearing
  That is, the first wool shorn from one's sheep (Yad, Bikkurim 10:4; Chullin 137a).

Levitical priests
  (Sifri; Rashi; Rashbam; Ralbag; cf. Yevamoth 86b). Some, however, say that it literally denotes a Levite (Arakhin 11a; Saadia; Chizzkuni; Adereth Eliahu).

on a festival
  (Sifri; Yad, K'ley HaMikdash 4:4). Literally, 'from one of your gates,' or 'settlements,' indicating the time that all the Israelites are together in one settlement; i.e. on a festival pilgrimage.

or
  (see Yad, K'ley HaMikdash 4:7).

serve
  Priestly service. Or, if the verse is speaking of a Levite, singing (Arakhin 11a).

whose turn it is
  Literally, 'who stand.' The priests were divided into different shifts, with each having a different day to serve (Yad, K'ley HaMikdash 4:3).

On the festivals...
  (Yad, K'ley HaMikdash 4:4; Sukkah 55b).

The only exception...
  That is, sacrifices that are not brought especially for the festival (Yad, K'ley HaMikdash 4:5). However, some interpret this verse, 'The Levitical priest who lives in any of your Israelite settlements can come to the place that God shall choose whenever he desires. (18:7) He can then serve before God his Lord, just the same as any of his fellow Levitical priests who stand and serve before God. (18:8) He shall then receive the same portion to eat as they do, with the exception of those portions that have been sold as an ancestral right' (Ramban on Sefer HaMitzvoth, Positive 36). This is actually a more literal translation.

through fire
  For Molekh; see Leviticus 18:21 (Sanhedrin 64b).

stick divination
  Kasam in Hebrew. Some say that this denotes tapping a stick to produce a meditative state so as to be able to predict the future (Yad, Avodath Kokhavim 11:6). Others describe it as peeling one side of a stick and seeing on which side it falls (Sefer Mitzvoth Gadol, Negative 52; Paaneach Razah), or grasping a stick and measuring off to the end with one's fingers, calling off positive and negative responses (Chizzkuni; cf. Sifri; Rashi).

Some say that the kesem includes all sorts of meditative methods used to predict the future (Ralbag; Chinukh 510). It may also include geomancy (Yad, loc. cit.; Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative 31), and divination by lots in general (Rashi on Ezekiel 21:27; cf. Septuagint).

divines auspicious times
  See Leviticus 19:26.

divines by omens
  Ibid.

witchcraft
  See Exodus 22:17.

uses incantations
  Chover chaver in Hebrew. This denotes incantations in general (Yad, Avodath Kokhavim 11:10; Septuagint). In particular, it denotes using incantations to gather demons (Ibn Ezra), or animals (Targum Yonathan; Radak, Sherashim; Sefer Mitzvoth Gadol, Negative 64; cf. Sanhedrin 65b). It can also involve incantations to cure snakebites and the like, and, possibly, those used in alchemy (Saadia; Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative 35; Yad, loc. cit.).

mediums and oracles
  See Leviticus 19:31.

communicate with the dead
  Through fasting (Sanhedrin 65b) and meditation (Ralbag).

In your midst
  That is, in the Holy Land (Sifri).

Day of Assembly
  See above, 9:10, 10:4.

We cannot listen...
  See Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:22.

I will punish...
  This is death by God's hand (Yad, Yesodey HaTorah 9:2).





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