Abominations and the Holiness of the Land

Apr 19, 2015

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהֹוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר׃

Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying:

Leviticus 18:1

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־מִשְׁמַרְתִּי לְבִלְתִּי עֲשׂוֹת מֵחֻקּוֹת הַתּוֹעֵבֹת אֲשֶׁר נַעֲשׂוּ לִפְנֵיכֶם וְלֹא תִטַּמְּאוּ בָּהֶם אֲנִי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם׃

You shall keep My charge not to engage in any of the abhorrent practices that were carried on before you, and you shall not defile yourselves through them: I Hashem am your God.

Leviticus 18:30

This section begins with a command not to follow in the abominable ways of Egypt, from which God has taken the Children of Israel, or of Canaan, to which God is bringing them. Rather, they are to walk in God’s ways of holiness.


From there, the text elaborates on forbidden relationships. These include adultery, incest, bestiality, marrying two sisters, or lying with a woman in her time of separation. The Torah also forbids passing a child to Molech, which the Sages define in the Talmud as a specific form of idolatry.


All of these commands are instructed because the land will not tolerate contamination, and, God warns, if they fail, they will be cast out of the Promised Land just as the previous inhabitants were. In fact, the Israel Bible points out, the Children of Israel do ultimately commit the same grievous sins as their predecessors, and are, indeed, cast out of the land into exile. Today, the people of Israel have returned to the land, but the warnings in this chapter are as salient as ever.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why might the prohibition on worshiping Molech be included in a chapter that details forbidden relationships?

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