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This Study Series is being released according to the Torah Reading Schedule.

This week- Section 28
Name- מצרע (Person Afflicted with Tzara’at {Leper}) (Infected One)
Parashah/Parsha- Vayikra 14.1-15.33
Torah Portion- Leviticus 14.1-15.33

Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are from the JPS edition of The Torah, The Five Books of Moses, A New Translation of The Holy Scriptures, according to the Masoretic Text, First Section. Copyright 1967 by the Jewish Publication Society of America, Second Edition.

This week I want to discuss Deuteronomy 12.8-12.

8You shall not act at all as we now act here, every man as he pleases, 9because you have not yet come to the allotted haven that the LORD your God is giving you. 10When you cross the Jordan and settle in the land that the LORD your God is allotting to you, and He grants you safety from all your enemies around you and you live in security, 11then you must bring everything that I command you to the site where the LORD your God will choose to establish His name: your burnt offerings and other sacrifices, your tithes and contributions, and all the choice votive offerings that you vow to the LORD. 12And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God with your sons and daughters and with your male and female slaves, along with the Levite of your settlement, for he has no territorial allotment among you.

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While not technically part of the previous two Essays, this Essay does continue my commentary on this section of Moses’ presentation to Israel, because Deuteronomy 12.8-12 continues Moses’ thoughts from the previous section (Deuteronomy 12.2-7), which I discussed in the previous two Essays, Year 2 Essay 26 and 27.

This part of Moses’ presentation has portions that sound similar to the previous section. That is because Moses reiterates some things when speaking about the burnt offerings, sacrifices, tithes, contributions, votive offerings, and rejoicing before Jehovah (Deuteronomy 12.11-12).

What is new in this section is Moses giving a very specific phrase “You shall not act at all as we now act here”.

That is referencing an interesting occurrence during the exodus and wilderness time period.

In essence, Moses is declaring that the time prior to crossing the Jordan was unique, during which Jehovah permitted Israel to act in certain ways that would be unacceptable once the nation of Israel had entered into and conquered the land that was allotted to them.

In the wilderness, how was everyone acting?

According to what Moses says in this passage, every person was acting as they pleased (Deuteronomy 12.8b).

The question that Moses does not ask is: why was Israel permitted to act and do as they pleased?

To that unasked question, Moses does provide an answer. The answer is found in the passage: “because you have not yet come to the allotted haven that the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 12.9).

Therefore, Jehovah had given Israel latitude in how the people of Israel conducted their actions while in the wilderness.

But as Moses stated, that time was coming to an end, and would end when (Deuteronomy 12.10) the nation of Israel:
1) had crossed over the Jordan river,
2) had settled in the land,
3) had been granted by Jehovah safety from their enemies, and
4) lived in security.

From that verse, it can be seen that Moses declared that four things had to occur in order for Israel to stop doing as each person pleased.

That type of strategy helps us understand why Jehovah is patient with Israel during the conquest and the years that followed.

However, this passage does also reveal that, at some point, there would become some type of organized and scheduled routine for things, which commonly is referred to as orthodoxy, where there is an authorized and generally accepted way and practice of doing things.

When would that orthodoxy appear?

It seems that the answer to that question depends upon which part of Israelite history one is studying.

Why? Because things are different during the Judges than during the period of Kings Saul, David, and Solomon, just as things were different in the divided kingdom, and things were different after the Assyrian Invasion and until the Babylonian Captivity, then things were different after returning from Babylon.

What can be assumed from this passage in Deuteronomy is that a structure would arise and become the dominant and/or prominent method of conduct within Israel.

Yet, as can be seen through Israelite history, at different stages of Israel’s national and spiritual developments, there were different ways of doing things, which seems to make for different types of “orthodoxies”.

So the biggest question, it seems, that comes from this passage is: how is authority established so that every person does not do as they please?

That is a difficult question to answer.

But the question does allow us to understand why tracing authority back to Moses seems important.

Why? Because in doing such, authority has established the authority to provide structure to Israel.

But the ultimate question is: from where does the authority come?

It seems that most would agree that the ultimate authority comes from and is sourced in Jehovah.

The question is: how is that authority confirmed?

In part, that is where Deuteronomy 13 provides assistance, where that chapter helps address this important and vital question.

However, in addition to that question of authority to compel and/or impose standards, it is known from this passage that Moses expects Israel to conduct themselves properly with conduct regarding worship.

Why? Because Israel’s first steps without the presence of Moses was to construct a calf made of gold to represent Jehovah.

Interestingly, the final part of this passage involves what Deuteronomy 12.7 referred to as ‘households’.

In Deuteronomy 12.12 a household is clarified to include: sons, daughters, servants (slaves) both male and female, and the household’s association with the local Levite.

For me, it seems unnecessary for Moses to clarify the concept of ‘household’.

Why? Because, for me, it seems that which is associated with the household had already been described by God in the Ten (Exodus 20.14; Deuteronomy 5.18).

But perhaps Moses considered the description of ‘household’ as necessary, in order for the ancient Israelite audience to have clarification of the concept.

Also, it is of importance that Moses makes certain that the Israelites incorporate the Levites into their association of household.

Why? Because the Levites did not receive any land inheritance (cf. Deuteronomy 10.9). The Levites did not receive land allotment because they were given access to the items brought to the Tabernacle.

Importantly, Jehovah gave the Levites their inheritance through their service at the Tabernacle and the Levites depended upon the things brought to the Tabernacle.

Even though that was true, it appears that when Moses makes the Israelite communities remember the Levites, it is to help the non-Levites understand that the Israelite communities were not to consider themselves independent and isolated from being associated with the Levites.