What is right in our eyes?

In Deuteronomy 12 God, giving the last instructions to Moses reminds him about the importance of keeping the laws and regulations, of obeying rules and commandments. The unstructured vagrant life of the Israelites is drawing to the end. The promised land can only be conquered by an organized society sharing the common observances and striving for the same goals.

While explaining how the sacrifices should be offered, in 12:8, God says “You shall not act at all as we now act here, every man as he pleases”. Rashi comments that here God speaks about the imminent abolishment of the practice of building the individual sacrificial altars since the sacrifices are soon going to be centralized together with the centralization of the nation and the future state.

The Hebrew line says, “as we now act here, every man [doing] what is right in his eyes”. The intentions of the individual might be good and praiseworthy. On the other hand, they might as well be dubious and harmful. This is the difference between a lawful and an unlawful state. In the latter, the will of one person dictates the course of events, making the might and riches the true rulers of the society.

Torah teaches us that there is only one will to be adhered to – the Divine utterance, ensuring the lawfulness of the future Jewish state.

About the Author
Nelly Shulman is a journalist and writer currently based in Berlin. She is an author of four popular historical novels in the Russian language. She is working on the fifth novel in this series and on her first English-language novel, a historical thriller set during the Siege of Leningrad. She a Hawthornden Fellow and an alumna of the Nachum Goldmann Fellowship.
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