I [Moses] Pleaded with the Eternal
Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11
Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary (CCAR Press)

Vaetchanan Deuteronomy English translation3:23] I pleaded with the Eternal at that time, saying, 24] “O Eternal God, You who let Your servant see the first works of Your greatness and Your mighty hand, You whose powerful deeds no god in heaven or on earth can equal! 25] Let me, I pray, cross over and see the good land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country, and the Lebanon.” 26] But the Eternal was wrathful with me on your account and would not listen to me. The Eternal One said to me, “Enough! Never speak to Me of this matter again! 27] Go up to the summit of Pisgah and gaze about, to the west, the north, the south, and the east. Look at it well, for you shall not go across yonder Jordan. 28] Give Joshua his instructions, and imbue him with strength and courage, for he shall go across at the head of this people, and he shall allot to them the land that you may only see.”

29] Meanwhile we stayed on in the valley near Beth-peor.

4:1] And now, O Israel, give heed to the laws and rules that I am instructing you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Eternal, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2] You shall not add anything to what I command you nor take anything away from it, but keep the commandments of the Eternal your God that I enjoin upon you. 3] You saw with your own eyes what the Eternal did in the matter of Baal-peor, that the Eternal your God wiped out from among you every person who followed Baal-peor; 4] while you, who held fast to the Eternal your God, are all alive today.

5] See, I have imparted to you laws and rules, as the Eternal my God has commanded me, for you to abide by in the land that you are about to enter and occupy. 6] Observe them faithfully, for that will be proof of your wisdom and discernment to other peoples, who on hearing of all these laws will say, “Surely, that great nation is a wise and discerning people.” 7] For what great nation is there that has a god so close at hand as is the Eternal our God whenever we call? 8] Or what great nation has laws and rules as perfect as all this Teaching that I set before you this day?

9] But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live. And make them known to your children and to your children’s children: 10] The day you stood before the Eternal your God at Horeb, when the Eternal One said to me, “Gather the people to Me that I may let them hear My words, in order that they may learn to revere Me as long as they live on earth, and may so teach their children.” 11] You came forward and stood at the foot of the mountain. The mountain was ablaze with flames to the very skies, dark with densest clouds. 12] The Eternal One spoke to you out of the fire; you heard the sound of words but perceived no shape—nothing but a voice. 13] [God] declared to you the covenant that you were commanded to observe, the Ten Commandments, inscribing them on two tablets of stone. 14] At the same time the Eternal commanded me to impart to you laws and rules for you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy.

15] For your own sake, therefore, be most careful—since you saw no shape when the Eternal spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire— 16] not to act wickedly and make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness whatever: the form of a man or a woman, 17] the form of any beast on earth, the form of any winged bird that flies in the sky, 18] the form of anything that creeps on the ground, the form of any fish that is in the waters below the earth.— 19] And when you look up to the sky and behold the sun and the moon and the stars, the whole heavenly host, you must not be lured into bowing down to them or serving them. These the Eternal your God allotted to other peoples everywhere under heaven; 20] but you the Eternal took and brought out of Egypt, that iron blast furnace, to be God’s very own people, as is now the case.

21] Now the Eternal was angry with me on your account and swore that I should not cross the Jordan and enter the good land that the Eternal your God is assigning you as a heritage. 22] For I must die in this land; I shall not cross the Jordan. But you will cross and take possession of that good land.

23] Take care, then, not to forget the covenant that the Eternal your God concluded with you, and not to make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness, against which the Eternal your God has enjoined you. 24] For the Eternal your God is a consuming fire, an impassioned God.

25] When you have begotten children and children’s children and are long established in the land, should you act wickedly and make for yourselves a sculptured image in any likeness, causing the Eternal your God displeasure and vexation, 26] I call heaven and earth this day to witness against you that you shall soon perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess; you shall not long endure in it, but shall be utterly wiped out. 27] The Eternal will scatter you among the peoples, and only a scant few of you shall be left among the nations to which the Eternal will drive you. 28] There you will serve gods of wood and stone, made by human hands, that cannot see or hear or eat or smell.

29] But if you search there, you will find the Eternal your God, if only you seek with all your heart and soul— 30] when you are in distress because all these things have befallen you and, in the end, return to and obey the Eternal your God. 31] For the Eternal your God is a compassionate God, who will not fail you nor let you perish; [God] will not forget the covenant made on oath with your fathers.

32] You have but to inquire about bygone ages that came before you, ever since God created humankind on earth, from one end of heaven to the other: has anything as grand as this ever happened, or has its like ever been known? 33] Has any people heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have, and survived? 34] Or has any deity ventured to go and take one nation from the midst of another by prodigious acts, by signs and portents, by war, by a mighty hand and outstretched arm and awesome power, as the Eternal your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? 35] It has been clearly demonstrated to you that the Eternal alone is God; there is none else. 36] From the heavens [God] let you hear the divine voice to discipline you; on earth [God] let you see the great divine fire; and from amidst that fire you heard God’s words. 37] And having loved your ancestors, [God] chose their heirs after them; [God] personally—in great, divine might—led you out of Egypt, 38] to drive from your path nations greater and more populous than you, to take you into their land and assign it to you as a heritage, as is still the case. 39] Know therefore this day and keep in mind that the Eternal alone is God in heaven above and on earth below; there is no other. 40] Observe God’s laws and commandments, which I enjoin upon you this day, that it may go well with you and your children after you, and that you may long remain in the land that the Eternal your God is assigning to you for all time.

41] Then Moses set aside three cities on the east side of the Jordan 42] to which a [male] killer could escape, one who unwittingly slew another without having been an enemy in the past; he could flee to one of these cities and live: 43] Bezer, in the wilderness in the Tableland, belonging to the Reubenites; Ramoth, in Gilead, belonging to the Gadites; and Golan, in Bashan, belonging to the Manassites.

44] This is the Teaching that Moses set before the Israelites: 45] these are the decrees, laws, and rules that Moses addressed to the people of Israel, after they had left Egypt, 46] beyond the Jordan, in the valley at Beth-peor, in the land of King Sihon of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, whom Moses and the Israelites defeated after they had left Egypt. 47] They had taken possession of his country and that of King Og of Bashan—the two kings of the Amorites—which were on the east side of the Jordan 48] from Aroer on the banks of the wadi Arnon, as far as Mount Sion, that is, Hermon; 49] also the whole Arabah on the east side of the Jordan, as far as the Sea of the Arabah, at the foot of the slopes of Pisgah.

5:1] Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: Hear, O Israel, the laws and rules that I proclaim to you this day! Study them and observe them faithfully!

2] The Eternal our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3] It was not with our ancestors that the Eternal made this covenant, but with us, the living, every one of us who is here today. 4] Face to face the Eternal One spoke to you on the mountain out of the fire— 5] I stood between the Eternal and you at that time to convey the Eternal’s words to you, for you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain—saying:

6] I the Eternal am your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage: 7] You shall have no other gods beside Me.

8] You shall not make for yourself a sculptured image, any likeness of what is in the heavens above, or on the earth below, or in the waters below the earth. 9] You shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I the Eternal your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generations of those who reject Me, 10] but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

11] You shall not swear falsely by the name of the Eternal your God; for the Eternal will not clear one who swears falsely by God’s name.

12] Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Eternal your God has commanded you. 13] Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14] but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Eternal your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do. 15] Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and the Eternal your God freed you from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Eternal your God has commanded you to observe the sabbath day.

16] Honor your father and your mother, as the Eternal your God has commanded you, that you may long endure, and that you may fare well, in the land that the Eternal your God is assigning to you.

17] You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

18] You [men] shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. Likewise, none of you shall crave your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

19] The Eternal One spoke those words—those and no more—to your whole congregation at the mountain, with a mighty voice out of the fire and the dense clouds. [God] inscribed them on two tablets of stone and gave them to me. 20] When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was ablaze with fire, you came up to me, all your tribal heads and elders, 21] and said, “The Eternal our God has just shown us a majestic Presence, and we have heard God’s voice out of the fire; we have seen this day that humankind may live though addressed by God. 22] Let us not die, then, for this fearsome fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Eternal our God any longer, we shall die. 23] For what mortal ever heard the voice of the living God speak out of the fire, as we did, and lived? 24] You go closer and hear all that the Eternal our God says, and then you tell us everything that the Eternal our God tells you, and we will willingly do it.”

25] The Eternal heard the plea that you made to me, and the Eternal One said to me, “I have heard the plea that this people made to you; they did well to speak thus. 26] May they always be of such mind, to revere Me and follow all My commandments, that it may go well with them and with their children forever! 27] Go, say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’ 28] But you remain here with Me, and I will give you the whole Instruction—the laws and the rules—that you shall impart to them, for them to observe in the land that I am giving them to possess.”

29] Be careful, then, to do as the Eternal your God has commanded you. Do not turn aside to the right or to the left: 30] follow only the path that the Eternal your God has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you, and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess.

6:1] And this is the Instruction—the laws and the rules—that the Eternal your God has commanded [me] to impart to you, to be observed in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2] so that you, your children, and your children’s children may revere the Eternal your God and follow, as long as you live, all the divine laws and commandments that I enjoin upon you, to the end that you may long endure. 3] Obey, O Israel, willingly and faithfully, that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly [in] a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Eternal, the God of your ancestors, spoke to you.

4] Hear, O Israel! The Eternal is our God, the Eternal alone. 5] You shall love the Eternal your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. 6] Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. 7] Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. 8] Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; 9] inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10] When the Eternal your God brings you into the land that was sworn to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to be assigned to you—great and flourishing cities that you did not build, 11] houses full of all good things that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and you eat your fill, 12] take heed that you do not forget the Eternal who freed you from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. 13] Revere only the Eternal your God and worship [God] alone, and swear only by God’s name. 14] Do not follow other gods, any gods of the peoples about you— 15] for the Eternal your God in your midst is an impassioned God—lest the anger of the Eternal your God blaze forth against you, wiping you off the face of the earth.

16] Do not try the Eternal your God, as you did at Massah. 17] Be sure to keep the commandments, decrees, and laws that the Eternal your God has enjoined upon you. 18] Do what is right and good in the sight of the Eternal, that it may go well with you and that you may be able to possess the good land that the Eternal your God promised on oath to your fathers, 19] and that all your enemies may be driven out before you, as the Eternal has spoken.

20] When, in time to come, your children ask you, “What mean the decrees, laws, and rules that the Eternal our God has enjoined upon you?” 21] you shall say to your children, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and the Eternal freed us from Egypt with a mighty hand. 22] The Eternal wrought before our eyes marvelous and destructive signs and portents in Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household; 23] and us [God] freed from there, in order to take us and give us the land promised on oath to our fathers. 24] Then the Eternal commanded us to observe all these laws, to revere the Eternal our God, for our lasting good and for our survival, as is now the case. 25] It will be therefore to our merit before the Eternal our God to observe faithfully this whole Instruction, as [God] has commanded us.”

7:1] When the Eternal your God brings you to the land that you are about to enter and possess, and [God] dislodges many nations before you—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, seven nations much larger than you— 2] and the Eternal your God delivers them to you and you defeat them, you must doom them to destruction: grant them no terms and give them no quarter. 3] You shall not intermarry with them: do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. 4] For they will turn your children away from Me to worship other gods, and the Eternal’s anger will blaze forth against you, promptly wiping you out. 5] Instead, this is what you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, smash their pillars, cut down their sacred posts, and consign their images to the fire.

6] For you are a people consecrated to the Eternal your God: of all the peoples on earth the Eternal your God chose you to be God’s treasured people. 7] It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that the Eternal grew attached to you and chose you—indeed, you are the smallest of peoples; 8] but it was because the Eternal favored you and kept the oath made to your fathers that the Eternal freed you with a mighty hand and rescued you from the house of bondage, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

9] Know, therefore, that only the Eternal your God is God, the steadfast God who keeps the divine covenant faithfully to the thousandth generation of those who love [God] and keep the divine commandments, 10] but who instantly requites with destruction those who reject [God]—never slow with those who reject, but requiting them instantly. 11] Therefore, observe faithfully the Instruction—the laws and the rules—with which I charge you today.

Translation from The Torah: A Modern Commentary, copyright (c) 2016 by CCAR Press. All rights reserved. Translation of Exodus; Leviticus; Numbers; Deuteronomy from NJPS © 1962, 1985, 1999; CJPS © 2006. Used and adapted by CCAR Press with permission from The Jewish Publication Society and the University of Nebraska Press. No part of this translation may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, distributed, or be transmitted without express written permission from the Central Conference of American Rabbis. For permission, please contact CCAR Press.