Parashat Eikev – Erev Shabbat 7 August 2020
Week of 2-8 August 2020
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14-51:3
Theme: Before Entering the Promised Land
In Parashat Eikev Moses continues his closing address to the children of Israel, promising them that if they will fulfill the commandments (mitzvot) of the Torah, they will prosper in the Promised Land they are about to conquer and settle in keeping with God’s promise to their forefathers. Moses extols the blessings of the land that the people are about to enter but warns that these blessings are dependent upon the people remaining faithful to the covenant they entered into with God at Mount Sinai.
Throughout the exhortation we learn that “a human being does not live on bread alone […] but on anything that the Lord decrees” (8:3); that with all that God has given you, “beware that your heart grow haughty and you forget God, who freed you from the land of Egypt” (8:14ff); that it is not out of your virtue, Israel, that God is giving you this land for “you are a stiff-necked people” (9:6); that the rebelliousness of the people leads them to make a molten calf (9:16); that the mediation of Moses was required before God so the people of Israel could receive new tablets to reaffirm the Sinai Covenant (10:1ff). All of these provide ample evidence and proof of God’s love and concern for His people despite their rebelliousness. If this care and concern God has for His people is to continue, however, if this covenant is to hold, then they, too, must respond with acts and attitudes of love and loyalty.
Thus, what I find compelling and offer for reflection are the commentaries found with respect to the third portion of the Parashah where Moses lays out the conditions for entering and keeping the Promised Land. (11:1-25). Again, there is a clear call for love and loyalty to God. He reminds Israel that the Promised Land is not, will not be at all like life in Egypt. Where they had to water the crops in Egypt, here God will grant the rain for the land. You will have all you need if you but “obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Lord your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul” (11:13). God then speaks to the community to say that He will provide rain for the land and all shall have their fill, but take care not to be lured away by other gods.
These words that constitute the second section of the Sh’ma (11:13-21), differ from the first passage that we heard in last week’s Parashat Va-et’chanan, which reads, “Hear, O, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut 6:4-5). (See note on vv 13-20 in Etz Hayim 1052n and Plaut 1239n if you have these books.)
Consider that the first passage is phrased in the singular, speaking to each of us individually. The second refers to that which the community will receive as a benefit – a reward for their love and loyalty. Both passages enjoin on the reader ‘to love God with all their heart and all their soul,’ while the first adds and to love God ‘with all your might.’ We are called to love God both as an individual and as part of a community. As a community, from the second passage if we respond to the call, God will reward us with all we need. As an individual, we respond to the call ‘with all our might,’ because “we are so pleased to be able to do something for one whom we love” and “eager to do so with no thought of reward” (Etz Hayim 1050n, 1052n). It is not out of fear of punishment or hope of reward, which the second passage evokes. Leibowitz suggests that those responding with the injunction of the second passage do so from “a less developed theological level, who can be persuaded to do what is right only with the hope of reward or punishment” (Etz Hayim 1052n).
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. What is my motivation to respond to the call to love God in the Sh’ma? 2. What other aspect of Eikev evokes a response in me for my life today – have I created a ‘molten calf,’ do I have a ‘haughty heart’ that claims all success is mine?
Bibliography: Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary (New York 2001); Plaut, The Torah: A Modern Commentary (New York 2006); Parshat Eikev In-Depth, http://www.chabad.org/parshah/in-depth/default_cdo/aid/5 3666/jewish/In-Depth.htm; The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Parashat Eikev, http://www.chabad.org/media/pdf/751/FPZV7515585.pdf
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Julien Fradette, M.Div., Winnipeg, MB, Bat Kol alumna 2011