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Rambam for Wednesday, 21 Tishrei, 5778 - October 11, 2017

Rambam - Sefer HaMitzvos
As Divided for The Daily Learning Schedule

Negative Mitzvot 11, 12, 13;
Positive Mitzvah 185;
Negative Mitzvot: 25, 22, 48, 50, 51, 30, 33, 31, 32


20 Tishrei, 5778 - October 10, 201722 Tishrei, 5778 - October 12, 2017


Negative Mitzvah 11: You shall not build a "Matzevah" - a "pillar"
Deuteronomy 16:22 "Do not erect a pillar"

A "Matzevah" is a structure usually built for idol-worship. We are not allowed to construct a "Matzevah" even if we intend to serve HaShem with it.


Negative Mitzvah 12: You shall not have kneeling stones
Leviticus 26:1 "Nor shall you install a kneeling stone in your land, to bow down upon it"

Idol-worshipers often placed a special decorated stone before their idol and then use it to kneel upon while they prayed to their idols.

We are forbidden to have such a stone, even if we intend to worship HaShem on it.


Negative Mitzvah 13: You shall not plant an "Asherah" - "a beautiful tree"
Deuteronomy 16:21 "Do not plant for yourself an Asherah of any tree near the altar of the L-rd thy G-d"

The "Asherah" is a tree that is planted near the house of idol- worship in order to make the area more beautiful.

We are forbidden to plant trees near the altar of the Temple - the Beit HaMikdash.

The Torah wants our service of HaShem to be holy and special.

It should, in no way, resemble any form of idol-worship.

Because of this, there were no trees planted on the Temple site.

As with the "Matzevah" (Negative Mitzvah 11) and the "kneeling stone" (Negative Mitzvah 12), so, too, the "Asherah" is not to be used, even if our intention is for the service of HaShem.

These are not allowed because they are connected with idol worship.


Positive Mitzvah 185: Destroying Idol-Worship
Deuteronomy 12:2 "And destroy all those places"

HaShem does not want the Jewish people to worship idols.

He wants us to remove them from our presence and totally destroy them.

We are commanded to destroy all those places where idols are worshiped: Eretz Yisrael is a holy land. Therefore, special efforts must be made to clear it of idol worship entirely.


Introduction to Negative Mitzvot 22-25:

Prohibitions against using or benefiting from things which were made and used for idol-worship.

Many of the Mitzvot regarding idol-worship stress that we stay as far removed from idol-worship as possible.

We must not even try to benefit from anything connected to idol-worship, even if the specific item was not directly used for the worship of idols. We should not feel that it is a waste not to find some use for these objects.


Negative Mitzvah 25: You shall not profit from idol worship
Deuteronomy 7:26 "Do not bring any offensive idol into your house"

We are not allowed to derive benefit from any type of idol-worship.

We must stay far removed from its practice, its places of worship and everything connected to it.


Negative Mitzvah 22: You shall not benefit from the decorations of idols
Deuteronomy 7:25 "Do not desire the silver or the gold that is on them"

We are not allowed to make use of, or benefit from, valuables that once decorated statues or idols.


Introduction to Negative Mitzvot 48-56:

Relating to Non-Believers and Idol-Worshipers.

The Torah teaches us that we should always try to help a person who is not doing the right thing. We might invite them over to our house, try to be friends with them and convince them that we care about them and want to help.

However, sometimes, when we see that nothing we say or do will have any effect, it is probably best that we avoid such a person altogether.

In a similar way, HaShem commanded the Jewish people to keep its distance from certain nations so that we will not be influenced by or assimilate into these nations.


Negative Mitzvah 48: You shall not make a treaty with the Seven Nations of Canaan
Deuteronomy 7:2 "You shall not make a treaty with them"

We are not allowed to make a treaty with the Seven Nations of Canaan, the nations that inhabited Eretz Yisrael before its conquest by the Jews.

These nations are: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.


Negative Mitzvah 50: You shall not show mercy or consideration to idol-worshipers
Deuteronomy 7:2 "Do not show mercy towards them"

We must not show mercy towards idol-worshipers.

Included in this Negative Mitzvah, is an additional commandment not to regard them or their appearance as appealing or attractive.


Negative Mitzvah 51: You shall not allow idol-worshipers to live in Eretz Yisrael
Exodus 23:33 "They shall not dwell in your land lest they make you sin against Me"

We are not allowed to allow idol-worshipers to live in Eretz Yisrael to make sure that we will not be influenced by their belief.

However, if an idol-worshiper renounces his belief and no longer practices his religion, we may allow him to stay in Eretz Yisrael. Such an individual is called a "Ger Toshav".


Negative Mitzvah 30: You shall not imitate the customs or practices of other nations
Leviticus 20:23 "You shall not walk in the practices of the nation"

On Halloween night, Danny was looking out of his living room window.

Many of the children in the neighborhood were wearing costumes and knocking on doors for "trick-or-treat."

Danny was fascinated by the colorful costumes.

"Those kids sure look like they are having a lot of fun!", he said.

"I'm sure they are," agreed his father, looking up from a book he was reading.

"Still, you must remember that Halloween is part of their traditions and holidays. We are a special nation, and HaShem has also given us many Mitzvot and opportunities for enjoyment and happiness."

"That's right. I almost forgot!", exclaimed Danny. "We have Purim!"

"Yes, Purim is our holiday of joy and fun," his father answered.

"Then we celebrate the great miracles that took place. Those miracles demonstrated HaShem's great love for us."

"We sure are different!" Danny declared. "Now I understand that it was silly to be jealous of those kids!

Danny understood that the non-Jewish nations have their traditions and customs, while we have ours.

In this Negative Mitzvah, the Torah cautions us not to adopt or imitate non-Jewish customs and traditions.

By fulfilling this Negative Mitzvah we are able to constantly stress the unique qualities of the Jewish people and the rich beauty of our traditions.


Negative Mitzvah 33: You shall not act upon the basis of superstitions.
Deuteronomy 18:10 "There shall not be found among you... a soothsayer or an enchanter"

Superstitions are signs or omens of things supposed to happen, that some people claim to believe in.

An example of a superstition is if we hear someone say, "The first thing I saw today was a black cat so I know that I will fail my test!"

We are not allowed to decide what we should do depending on a superstition. Only the Torah can guide and help us to determine our actions.


Introduction to Mitzvot 31-38:

Prohibitions against Superstition

These Negative Mitzvot concern superstition, and the forbidden use of sorcery, Astrology and other methods to predict the future.

Many people believe that there are other powers besides G-d that rule our fate. The Torah forbids us to try to tell the future with those methods, knowing that HaShem alone decides our future.

A great Rabbi was once traveling with his students in a horse- drawn carriage.

The Rabbi suddenly pointed to a leaf falling from a tree.

"Watch that leaf carefully," he advised his students.

The students followed the leaf as it fell gracefully to the ground.

A slight breeze stirred it, causing the leaf to turn over and over on the road. It finally came to a stop a few yards away from the carriage.

The Rabbi ordered the driver to stop and told one of his students: "Go to the leaf and gently lift it up. Then tell us what you find beneath it."

The curious student followed his Rabbi's instructions.

After a moment he returned to the carriage and told his fellow students: "Under the leaf, is a tiny worm who had just begun to nibble at it."

"You see, how wondrous HaShem's ways are!", exclaimed the Rabbi happily. "That leaf fell from the tree at just the right time and precisely to the exact spot that it was needed! G-d cares for every creature and provides for its needs. He plans and guides every action."

As HaShem cares for the needs of a tiny worm, so too, He cares for all creation. Nothing in this world is accidental. There is no just plain luck or chance. No other forces determine what was, what is and what will be other than HaShem.

In these Mitzvot the Torah cautions us against practicing witchcraft or black magic to try to make things happen or to predict the future.

However, we can effect the future. We must always remember that our deeds can and do make a difference. When we keep the Mitzvot of the Torah, we bring upon ourselves many blessings from HaShem.


Negative Mitzvah 31: You shall not predict the future by any method of divination
Deuteronomy 18:10 "There must not be found among you... one who practices divination"

This is a type of sorcery that uses a stick, belt, pebbles (or some other object) and then by tapping, measuring, throwing, or peeling the object, the individual claims he can predict the future.

It is forbidden to practice this type of sorcery. It is forbidden to practice this type of sorcery which is called "divination".


Negative Mitzvah 32: You shall not use Astrology, or any other method of reading the stars to predict the future.
Deuteronomy 18:10 "There must not be found among you... a soothsayer"

We are forbidden to use Astrology or any other method of reading the stars to predict the future.

We should however, be careful not to confuse Astrology with Astronomy.

Astronomy, is the study of the many stars and heavenly bodies - the solar system, and the many galaxies. Not only is this study permitted, it can also help us sense the wonderful and extraordinary beauty of creation.

However, Astrology claims that the movement of the stars in the heavens effects our lives. Though this belief is common, the Torah tells us that our lives are in HaShem's hands. The movement and function of the many suns and planets are determined and designed by their creator, HaShem. They do not act on their own, nor do they have any power over us. Information gathered from their movement must not be used to try to determine the future.

Included in this Negative Mitzvah is an additional warning against practicing magic.

This forbids us to trick people into seeing things that are not actually true (using optical illusions and related tricks).


First there was One. There was no peace, because there was nothing with which to make peace. There was only One. Then there was Two. There was Plurality. From this point on, an infinite cacophony of conflict extended in all directions and forever. And on the third day G-d created peace. Peace is not homogeneity. Peace does not mean that everyone thinks the same way. Peace is when there is plurality that finds a higher Oneness.

From: Bringing Heaven Down to Earth by Tzvi Freeman - tzvif@aol.com



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