Parashat Eikev – Erev Shabbat 4 August 2023 (5783)
Week of 30 July – 5 August 2023
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25; Isaiah 49:14
Theme: Inspiration for the Journey
After 40 years of wandering, the Israelites are camped on the plain of Moab, poised to enter the Promised Land. As this parashah opens, Moses continues his second lengthy oration to the people in this vast, empty landscape. The careful listener senses Moses’ close friendship with G-d, remembers his unique role as intermediary between G-d and his people and Moses’ awareness of G-d’s abiding presence even in this desolate place. Moses’ initial message is both profound and challenging: G-d bestows covenant blessings, his faithfulness and love, on those who are obedient (see Deut.7:12-15).
The great prophet reviews the events of the past 40 years – the exodus from Egypt and the Israelites’ release from slavery, G-d’s loving care with the provision of manna, but also reminds the people of their failures and his intercession on their behalf. Moses imparts a treasure trove of wise advice which also resonates across the centuries with us, as we journey in faith. Inspiration for the journey and textural references follow:
- Remember G-d’s saving acts and know that the great and awesome G-d will always be with you. The difficulties you will experience will require faith in G-d. (Deut. 7: 19-21)
- When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to G-d. (Deut. 8:10)
- You have a duty to reach out to and befriend the stranger and the oppressed. (Deut. 10:19)
- G-d’s laws are always for our good. (Deut. 10:13)
- Pay heed to the lesson of humility learned from being tested by the hardships you endured in the past when you were totally dependent on G-d’s providence and care. (Deut. 8:2)
- Wealth and property are gifts from G-d, a fulfillment of the covenant. (Deut. 17-18)
- Remember the times you have failed and provoked G-d to anger; occasions when you have been defiant, were a stiff necked people. (Deut. 7-8)
- It is not by your virtue that G-d is giving you the land you are about to possess. (Deut. 9:6)
After the recital of what G-d has done, the text takes a turn when the people must be brought to the point of a freewill personal decision. “And now, what does the Eternal, your G-d demand of you?” (Deut. 10:12). Five requirements support this demand: reverence (fear of the Lord); walk in divine paths; love and serve G-d wholeheartedly; and keep his commandments and laws. The Psalmist reminds us: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ (Ps. 111:10) Reverence and love are fundamental to obedience and the person who possesses these attributes will walk in G-d’s ways, serve him and keep his laws. How might one claim to love G-d and refuse to keep his laws? These statutes are interrelated; worship and life are inseparable, then and in our time.
Reflection and Discussion: 1.Why should Israel respond to G-d with complete allegiance? Consider a simple, yet profound truth: Israel was expected to love G-d because G-d loved Israel first. Discuss… 2.Of the five expectations listed above, why then is love not mentioned first?
Bibliography: Plaut, The Torah, A Modern Commentary (New York, 2005); Thompson, Deuteronomy, An Introduction and Commentary (England, 1974)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Mary Ann Payne, Australia, Bat Kol Alumna ‘07, ‘11, ‘15