Ekev

This last day of his life Moshe continues to sum up how gravely important it is to see the whole picture of what Hashem has done for Israel. Applying Torah was always meant to (7:13) safeguard the covenant and therefore the relationship with Israel. Performing Torah was intended to enlighten daily life (7:13-14), stay healthy (7:15), be protected against outward threats from godless nations (7:17) and to possess the land (8:1). When things did not go so well two scenarios could take place: either Hashem left us to our own business or He would intervene by disciplining us. The latter took place.

Blessing or disciplining, the basis of G-d’s dealing with us is His love for us. He wants us to reach the goal G-d has for us. He wants us te become the people Hashem envisioned. He wants to develop the most beautiful and precious gifts, talents and character in us. This has been exprssed by all the blessings Moshe sums up again. Also by mentioning the seven species. These seven species are mentioned in this parasha only (8:8): wheat, barley, vines, fig trees, pomegranates, oil olive, and date-honey. The number seven is the expression of G-d’s presence and blessing, think of the Shabbat, the seven spirits (eyes) mentioned in Isaiah 11:2 and the seven arms of the Menorah in the Temple.

The riches of the Land are a present to Israel if we keep Torah and continue to keep it. And we are to thank Hashem for theses blessings of the Land: “You will eat and be satisfied, and you will bless Hashem your G-d for the good Land that He gave you” (8:10). This is where the Birkat Hamazon originates from and this verse is mentioned in it. Thankfulness helps to show our dependence to Hashem. That is toward Him. But it also helps to train our hearts to be dependent of the right One. Ask yourself: from whom comes my blessing, the compliments I want to receive, the protection I need and the love my hearts really grows from. And if we ae in a mood in which we need these things, let us thank the Lord for the precious moments in which He gave them in the past and ask Him to do it again.

Not abiding by Torah will have grave consequences. In that case Israel will end up like the nations which perish because they are godless: “And it shall be that if you forget Hashem your G-d, and go after other gods, and worship them and prostrate yourself to them, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will surely perish. Like the other nations which Hashem causes to perish before you, so will you perish, because you will not have hearkened to the voice of Hashem your G-d” (8:19-20). This serious warning also shows how important it is for the nations to observe Torah in order to be saved from this fate.

The success of Israel in obtaining the Land and having victory over its enemies is not and has never been because of its own strength. It is true that Israel’s army plays and has always played a very important role in these processes. But Hashem makes clear that particularly our victories over other nations which showed enmity against us has been because of their wickedness and of G-d’s anger against them (9:5). That makes having success less sure and automatic than one would like to see. Having success in the biblical way has to do with our obedience and being able to keep and continue to have relationship with Hashem. It is in this passage that Moshe recounts Israel’s stubbornness in great detail.

Moses tells about the first Luchot Habrit (Two Stone Tablets), the molten calf and the second set of Luchot Habrit. He reminds Israel that he pleaded with Hashem to spare the life and existence of Israel. And then he ends with the simple solution which will always work and which will save Israel from horror and Gallut (Diaspora), which is: “Only to fear Hashem your G-d, to go in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve Hashem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul, to observe the commandments of Hashem and his ordinances, which I command you today, for your benefit” (10:12-13).

One of the four places in Torah which commands us to bind the words of Hashem “for a sign” upon our arm and “as an ornament” between our eyes, to teach our children and to write them on our doorposts we find here (11:19-20). Our sages have translated this commandment as the use of tefilin, and the deeper meaning is to allow these words to guide our actions (arm) and to control the way we observe as if we look through G-d’s eyes. The writing on our doorposts we translate as the tradition of the mezuzah and the deeper meaning is that our homes are holy sanctuaries where G-d’s presence exists and is welcome.

The conclusion of all this is that Moshe wants Israel and soul mates from the nations to understand that its existence and success can only be guaranteed from the human point of view if (Ekev) we see Torah as the divine means to this wonderful purpose. Israel’s existence and its success are of tremendous importance. For Hashem’s promises are linked with them. And with them His name and credibility.

Torah was never meant to give eternal life to Israel, as many theologians want people to believe. It was and is meant to give practical success and benefits, victory and health in life in Olam Hazeh, this world. To do Torah shows our willingness to obey Hashem. That willingness and the surrender which results from it are a way for Hashem to read our hearts and to give us life in Olam Haba, the world to come.

Do we want success, safety and security, love and the awareness of it in our hearts, direction, belonging, victory, mental health, and purpose in our lives? Let us focus on our Maker and tell Him how much we love Him, ask Him for these wonderful things, and thank Him. He wants to give that to us. Ekev, on His terms and conditions.

Shabbat shalom,
Lion S. Erwteman, Rosh Kehilla of Beth Yeshua
Amsterdam, Holland