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Daily Mitzvah

Day 15: Negative Commandment 11, 12, 13; Positive Commandment 185; Negative Commandment 25, 22, 48, 50, 51, 30, 33, 31, 32

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Negative Commandment 11 (Digest)
A Structure Designated for Worship

"Do not erect a monument which the Lord, your G‑d, despises"Deuteronomy 16:22.

It is forbidden to erect a structure designed for people to gather around it to worship—even to worship the One G‑d. This is forbidden because erecting such a revered structure was common practice amongst the ancient idol worshippers.

Negative Commandment 12 (Digest)
Kneeling Stones

"You shall not install a kneeling stone in your land, to bow down upon it"Leviticus 26:1.

It is forbidden to make designated stones upon which to bow down—even if bowing to the One G‑d. This is forbidden because it was common practice amongst the ancient idol worshippers to decorate "kneeling stones" and place them before their idols.

Negative Commandment 13 (Digest)
Trees in the Temple

"Do not plant for yourself an Asherah of any tree near the altar of the Lord your G‑d"—Deuteronomy 16:21.

It is forbidden to plant any tree near the altar, or anywhere in the Holy Temple. This is forbidden because it was common practice amongst the ancient idol worshippers to plant beautiful decorative trees in their temples.

Positive Commandment 185 (Digest)
Destroying Idols

"Destroy all those places"Deuteronomy 12:2.

We are commanded to utterly eradicate all vestiges of idol worship from the Land of Israel. To shatter, burn, destroy and cut down—any method needed to destroy the idols, their altars, and their houses of worship.

Negative Commandment 25 (Digest)
Benefiting from Idolatry

"Do not bring an offensive [idol] into your house"Deuteronomy 7:26.

We are forbidden from deriving any benefit from an idol, or any of its implements. For example, it would be forbidden to cook on a fire fueled by wood from an Asherah (worshipped) tree.

Negative Commandment 22 (Digest)
Benefiting from Idolatrous Decorations

"Do not covet the silver or the gold that is on them"Deuteronomy 7:25.

It is forbidden to derive any benefit from idolatrous accoutrements, such as jewelry used to adorn an idol or the idol's gold plating.

Negative Commandment 48 (Digest)
Treaties with the Seven Nations

"You shall not make a treaty with them"Deuteronomy 7:2.

It is forbidden to make a peace treaty with the members of the seven nations of Canaan and to allow them to live peacefully in our midst—unless they agree to abandon their pagan ways.

Negative Commandment 50 (Digest)
Kindness towards Idol-Worshipers

"Do not show mercy towards them"Deuteronomy 7:2.

We are not to show mercy to idol-worshippers, nor are we permitted to praise them. It is even forbidden to say about an idol-worshipper, "Look at how attractive this individual is!"

Negative Commandment 51 (Digest)
Allowing Idol-Worshipers to Reside in Israel

"They shall not dwell in your land lest they make you sin against Me"Exodus 23:33.

We must not allow idol-worshippers to dwell in our midst in the Holy Land, lest we learn from their heretical ways. And it is certainly forbidden to sell or even rent real estate to an idol-worshipper in the land.

In fact, if an idol-worshipper wants to pass through our land while en route to his final destination, we do not allow passage unless he forswears idolatry.

Negative Commandment 30 (Digest)
The Practices of the Heathens

"You shall not walk in the practices of the nation that I am sending away before you"Leviticus 20:23.

We are forbidden from imitating the practices of the idolaters—even in those areas not associated with their pagan rites. Even something as simple as saying, "Since they dress in purple wool, I, too, will dress in purple wool..." is forbidden.

Negative Commandment 33 (Digest)
Interpreting Omens

"There shall not be found among you... one who interprets omens"Deuteronomy 18:10.

It is forbidden to base one's actions on supposed good or bad omens. The Midrash gives examples of "bad" omens: "My bread fell out of my mouth, my staff fell out of my hand, a snake passed me on my right, a fox on my left..."

Negative Commandment 31 (Digest)

"There shall not be found among you... a soothsayer"Deuteronomy 18:10.

It is forbidden to use any of the methods employed by psychics to stimulate their supposed clairvoyant talents—and to then predict the future based on these actions.

Negative Commandment 32 (Digest)
Astrology and Divination

"There shall not be found among you... a diviner of times"Deuteronomy 18:10.

It is forbidden to predict the auspiciousness of times or dates based on astrological formations: "This day is auspicious, and this day not so." It is also forbidden to act based on such predictions.

Also included in this prohibition is sleight of hand. It is forbidden to deceptively use sleight of hand to convince others that one has magical powers.

Translation of (the unabridged text of) Sefer Hamitzvot by Rabbi Berel Bell, member of the Rabbinical Court of Montreal and director of Teacher Training for the Jewish Learning Institute.

From "Sefer Hamitzvot in English," published by Sichos in English.
Daily Quote
I am going to heaven; I leave you my writings
  –Last words of Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch, Nissan 2, 5680 (1920)
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