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Deuteronomy Chapter 12
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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

Unified Worship
12:1 These are the rules and laws that you must carefully keep in the land that God, Lord of your fathers, is giving you so that you will be able to occupy it as long as you live on earth:
12:2 Do away with all the places where the nations whom you are driving out worship their gods, [whether they are] on the high mountains, on the hills, or under any luxuriant tree.
12:3 You must tear down their altars, break up their sacred pillars, burn their Asherah trees, and chop down the statues of their gods, obliterating their names from that place.
12:4 You may not worship God your Lord in such a manner.
12:5 This you may do only on the site that God your Lord will choose from among all your tribes, as a place established in His name. It is there that you shall go to seek His presence.
12:6 That shall be the place to which you must bring your burnt offerings and eaten sacrifices, your [special] tithes, your hand-delivered elevated gifts, your general and specific pledges, and the first-born of your cattle and flocks.
12:7 You and your families shall eat there before God your Lord, and you shall rejoice in all your endeavors, through which God your Lord shall bless you.
12:8 You will then not be able to do everything that we are now doing, [where each] person does what is right in his eyes.
12:9 Now you have not yet come to the resting place and hereditary land that God your Lord is giving you.
12:10 But you shall soon cross the Jordan and live in the land that God your Lord is allotting you. When He has granted you safety from all your enemies around you, and you live in security,
12:11 there will be a site that God will choose as the place dedicated to His name.

It is there that you will have to bring all that I am prescribing to you as your burnt offerings, eaten sacrifices, [special] tithes, hand-delivered elevated gifts, and the choice general pledges that you may pledge to God.

12:12 You shall rejoice before God your Lord along with your sons, your daughters, your male and female slaves, and the Levites from your settlements, who have no hereditary portion with you.
12:13 Be careful not to offer your burnt offerings in any place that you may see fit.
12:14 It must be done only in the place that God shall choose in [the territory of] one of your tribes. Only there shall you sacrifice burnt offerings, and only there shall you prepare all [the offerings] that I am prescribing to you.
12:15 [Elsewhere] in all your settlements, you may only slaughter animals to satisfy your own wants, so that you will be able to eat the meat that God gives you as His blessing. There the clean and unclean may eat it, like the deer and the gazelle.
12:16 The only thing you must not eat is the blood, which you must spill on the ground like water.
12:17 However, in your own settlements, you may not eat the tithes of your grain, wine and oil, the first-born of your cattle and flocks, any general pledges you make, your specific pledges, or your hand-delivered elevated gifts.
12:18 These you may eat only before God your Lord, in the place that God your Lord shall choose. You [shall eat them] along with your son, your daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite from your settlements, and you shall rejoice before God your Lord for everything you have.
12:19 As long as you are in the land, you must be careful not to abandon the Levite.

Non-Sacrificial Flesh
12:20 When God expands your borders as He promised you, and your natural desire to eat meat asserts itself, so that you say, 'I wish to eat meat,' you may eat as much meat as you wish.
12:21 Since the place chosen by God your Lord to be dedicated to His name is far, you need only slaughter your cattle and small animals that God will have given you in the manner that I have prescribed. You may then eat them in your settlements in any manner you desire.
12:22 However, you must eat them as you would a deer or gazelle, with the clean and unclean eating together.
12:23 Be extremely careful not to eat the blood, since the blood is [associated] with the spiritual nature, and when you eat flesh, you shall not [ingest] the spiritual nature along with it.
12:24 Since you must not eat [the blood], you can pour it on the ground like water.
12:25 If you do not eat it, you and your descendants will have a good life, since you will be doing what is morally right in God's eyes.
12:26 However, when you have any sacred offerings and pledges, you must take them and bring them to the place that God shall choose.
12:27 Then, when you prepare your burnt offerings, both the flesh and blood shall be placed on the altar of God your Lord. In the case of eaten sacrifices, the blood shall be poured on the altar of God your Lord, and the flesh shall be eaten.
12:28 Carefully listen to all these words that I prescribe to you, so that you and your descendants will have a good life forever, since you will be doing that which is good and morally right in the eyes of God your Lord.

Worshiping God with Idolatrous Practices
12:29 When God excises the nations to which you are coming, and drives them away before you, you shall expel them and live in their land.
12:30 After they have been wiped out before you, be very careful not to fall into a deadly trap by trying to follow them.

Do not try to find out about their gods, saying, 'Now, how did these nations worship their gods? I would also like to try [such practices].'

12:31 Do not worship God your Lord with such practices. In worshiping their gods, [these nations], committed all sorts of perversions hated by God. They would even burn their sons and daughters in fire as a means of worshiping their gods!



Commentary:

luxuriant
  Ra'anan in Hebrew. 'Heavily branched' (Targum), 'beautiful' (Targum Yonathan), 'thick' (Septuagint), or 'Green' (Hirsch).

Asherah trees
  See Exodus 34:13, Deuteronomy 7:5.

You may not worship...
  That is, in places such as those mentioned in Deuteronomy 12:2 (Rashi; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Bachya). Literally, 'Do not do this to God your Lord' (cf. Deuteronomy 12:31). However, the Talmud attaches this to verse 12:3, and cites this as a commandment not to destroy anything associated with God's worship (Sifri), and not to erase God's name (Makkoth 22a).

site that God...will choose
  Mentioned a number of times in this section. Ultimately, of course, this 'place' turned out to be Jerusalem. However, the 'place' could not be named before the royal line had been established in Israel (Moreh Nevukhim 3:45).

seek His presence
  (Targum; Ramban). or, 'seek [prophetically] to establish His sanctuary, and come there' (Sifri).

special tithes
  Not the Levitical tithes (Numbers 18:24), but animal tithes (Leviticus 27:32) and the second tithe (Deuteronomy 14:22; Bekhoroth 53a; Rashi). Some say that the Levitical tithes were also to be brought to Jerusalem if they could not be given to the Levite locally (Ramban).

hand-delivered elevated gifts
  Terumah in Hebrew. The reference is to the first fruits, which were hand-delivered (Deuteronomy 26:4; Yevamoth 73b; Rashi). This might also be referring to the priestly terumah, if there were no local priests to whom it could be given (Ramban). See Deuteronomy 12:10.

general and specific pledges
  Sacrifices (cf. Kinim 1:1).

first-born...
  See Exodus 13:2, Deuteronomy 15:20.

eat there
  Because sacrifices could be eaten only in Jerusalem (Zevachim 55a).

You will then...
  In the desert, non-priests could eat sacrifices any place in the camp (Zevachim 112b). See Leviticus 7:15.

When He has granted you safety
  Only then could Jerusalem be chosen (cf. Sanhedrin 20b).

dedicated to His name
  Literally, 'for His name to rest there.'

general pledges
  See Deuteronomy 12:6.

Be careful...
  See Leviticus 17:4.

settlements
  (Targum; Radak, Sherashim). Or, 'gates.'

clean and unclean
  Unlike sacrifice, which is forbidden to the unclean; Leviticus 7:20. By allowing the unclean to eat it, one shows that the animal was not offered as a sacrifice.

deer and the gazelle
  See Deuteronomy 14:5. These were animals that could not be offered as sacrifices. See Leviticus 17:13.

not eat is the blood
  See Leviticus 7:26, 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:23,24, 15:23.

spill on the ground
  As distinguished from sacrificial blood, as in Deuteronomy 12:27 (Ralbag).

tithes
  The second tithe, Deuteronomy 14:22 (Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative 141).

hand-delivered elevated gifts
  The first fruits (Makkoth 17a). See Deuteronomy 12:6.

in the manner that I have prescribed
  This alludes to all the many rules of ritual slaughter (Chullin 28a; Rashi).

Be extremely careful
  (Septuagint). Literally, 'be strong,' or, 'restrict your desires' (Targum Yonathan). There was a temptation to eat blood, since it was used in many mystical occult practices (Bachya).

blood is....spiritual nature
  Or 'life-force,' literally, 'soul.' See Leviticus 17:11,14.

you shall not ingest...
  Or, 'Do not eat flesh with life in it,' prohibiting flesh from a living animal (Chullin 102b; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah; Rashi). See Genesis 9:4.

Since
  (Saadia).

morally right
  (cf. Sifri on Deuteronomy 12:28). Yashar in Hebrew. Here we see that even in ritual laws there is an element of divine morality. Or, 'the straight way toward your calling' (Hirsch).

Do not worship...
  (Ibn Ezra; Ramban; Bachya). Literally, 'Do not do this to God your Lord;' see Deuteronomy 12:4.





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