[Here is] another explanation for, "And all things that I have said to you, be mindful of." Rabbi Yehuda began [his discourse] by saying, "Hear, My people, and I will testify about you...there shall be no foreign god among you...I am the L-rd your G‑d who brought you out of the land of Egypt." (Psalms 81:9-11) David spoke these verses with Divine Inspiration, so let's examine them.

"Hear My people": in numerous places Torah cautions man, in numerous places G‑d cautions man [through His prophets and the Hagiographa], and it is for the benefit of man, so he will observe the commandments of the Torah. He who is observant of Torah ways and is occupied with it is considered as occupied with the Divine Name.

We learned that the whole Torah is the name of G‑d, and one who is occupied with it is considered to be occupied with the Divine Name, as the whole Torah is one Divine Name, a supernal name, a Name incorporating Names. One who deducts one letter from it is considered causing a defect in the Divine Name. We learned that the words: "and make no mention of the name of other gods" means do not add to or detract from the Torah.

Rabbi Hiya said: "the name of other gods" refers to those occupied with foreign books not of Torah. "Neither let it be heard out of your mouth"; it is forbidden even to mention them [or] learn from them, especially as an explanation on the Torah.

Rabbi Yehuda taught it this way: What is the reason that the verse, "the name of other gods" is next to this verse, "You shall keep the feast of unleavened bread [the holiday of Passover]"? (Ex. 23:15) The explanation is that one who doesn't keep this [holiday] is equivalent to one who lacks faith in G‑d. Why? The matter is closely connected to it. [Matza is connected with the secret of faith.]

Rabbi Yitzhak said: So it is with all other holidays and festivals, as they are all connected with the Divine Name. About this we learned, it is written, "Three times in the year". (Ex. 23:17)

"All your males shall appear." Why "all your males"? Rabbi Elazar said, literally all males [referring to yesod] for they receive the blessing from the fountain of the spring [from yesod, for it draws down to malchut]. From here we learned that every circumcised Jew needs to be seen before the Holy King in order to receive blessings from the fountain of the spring. This is the essence of the verse: "according to the blessing of the L-rd your G‑d, which he has given you". (Deut. 16:17)

BeRahamim LeHayyim: What does this mean to you, and why is it being revealed to you now?

Our sacred Torah is a holistic entity, the most wondrous creation imaginable, with levels upon levels upon levels upon levels to the 100th.

It is also considered to be one long name of G‑d, with 600,000 letters [including the white spaces], and some 300,000 if we count the black ones only. Thus if we, in our supposed sophistication, decide to erase a letter, a word, a verse, or a chapter, we are in fact erasing G‑d's name, which is a most severe prohibition.

We of Israel are G‑d-wrestlers, to coin the term by R. Arthur Waskow. And thus while we may not "dig" certain verses like "all your males shall appear, " or "a man who lies with a man as one lies with a woman...shall be put to death," or "a man who lies with a woman who is Niddah...the two of them will be cut off from the rest of their people," we may not simply excise them, nor rewrite them in a fashion that makes us feel better.

Our faith is challenged. Our belief is tested. We need to listen to the inner voice of G‑d inside us, that still silent voice, and figure out how we can renew with meaning those verses that challenge many of our modern "sensibilities" and sensitivities.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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