“When HASHEM, your God, will cut down the nations where you have come to drive them away before you, and you drive them away and settle in their land, beware for yourself lest you be attracted after them…”
“If your brother, the son of your mother, or son or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend who is like your own soul will entice you secretly, saying, “Let us go and worship the gods of the others” — that you did not know, you nor your forefathers, ….you shall surely kill him….”
— Devarim/Deuteronomy 12:299-30, 13:7-10
The mission of these weekly-portion posts is to provide notes that can help those seeking to “open up the book,” find new ways into Torah. To that end, I’ve steered relatively clear of topics that most troubled ancient and/or contemporary readers. In this week’s portion, however, Moses is claiming that God recommends destroying nations, apparently to protect Israel from itself, and calling for members of the community who adopt idol worship to be put to death. It seems wrong not to “notice” this.
Without attempting to diminish the darkness of these concepts, and their long tail in history, I find it helpful to remember the following:
A) the strong “you KNOW [have intimate experience of] Me, your God, and you don’t know them (other gods)” theme, which runs throughout this book (see other posts tagged Re’eh); and
B) the “you better listen up, because soon enough you’ll be on your own, without me to protect you ” theme of Moses’ last speech. See also Amichai and Deuteronomy.
One way to consider these passages is to read them as a call to examine our own fears — personally and nationally — of betrayal and loss of control.