Do not derive benefit from an idolatrous city

The Literal Commandment

Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the LORD your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt. Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the LORD may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers, if you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 13:16-18)

 

The literal commandment is that nothing that is destined to be destroyed with the city that has turned to idolatry should "cling to your hand": we should not hold onto anything (even things of great value) that should be destroyed under these circumstances.

 

Messiah Says

Messiah implicitly affirmed this commandment when He spoke about the Law:

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)

 

Pictures of Messiah

Messiah declares "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." (John 14:6)

When we are commanded not to make an idol it is because such a pursuit is fruitless and only turns us away from the G-d who is the Truth.

Idols are nothing. Scripture describes idols in this way:

Thus says the LORD, "Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good." (Jeremiah 10:2-5)

 

If anyone would turn to idolatry then they are denying the truth of G-d's Word and Who He declares Himself to be.

These commandments prohibiting idolatry picture Messiah by pointing to idols and telling us He is not like them.

 

How Messiah Fulfilled

Messiah fulfilled this commandment by not deriving any benefit from a city that had turned to idol worship.

 

Traditional Observance

The core purpose of this commandment (and other like it) is to separate ourselves from anything related to idolatry. For example, in 2004, some Orthodox women in NY burned wigs they had purchased after they discovered the wigs (some costing thousands of dollars) might have been used in Hindu ceremonies seen as idolatrous in Orthodox teaching. 1

 

Other Notes

We are able to fulfill this commandment today and (should a city be burned because it turned to idolatry) we are able to refrain from benefiting from any of the goods or property that were within that city.

 

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Footnotes

1. "Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn Burn Banned Wigs", NY Times, May 17, 2004, taken 6/25/2011 from http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/17/nyregion/17wig.html [back]

Commandment Details

  • Mishneh Torah # 35
  • Mishneh Torah Book # 1
  • Mishneh Torah Book Knowledge
  • Mishneh Torah Category 4- Idolatry and Gentile Customs
  • Reference Deuteronomy 13:18
  • Scripture Book Deuteronomy
  • Chapter 13
  • Verse 18
  • English if you will listen to the voice of the LORD your God, keeping all His commandments which I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the LORD your God.
  • Hebrew יט כִּי תִשְׁמַע, בְּקוֹל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לִשְׁמֹר אֶת-כָּל-מִצְו‍ֹתָיו, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם--לַעֲשׂוֹת, הַיָּשָׁר, בְּעֵינֵי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ. {ס}
  • Greek (13:19) ἐὰν ἀκούσῃς τῆς φωνῆς κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ σου φυλάσσειν πάσας τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ, ὅσας ἐγὼ ἐντέλλομαί σοι σήμερον, ποιεῖν τὸ καλὸν καὶ τὸ ἀρεστὸν ἐναντίον κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ σου.
  • Parashah 47- Re'eh
  • Positive/Negative Negative
  • Sefer Hachinuch # 466
  • Sef. Hach. Command To derive no benefit from the wealth of a city gone astray into idolatry
  • Category Idolatry
  • We can fullfill today Yes

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