Parashat Elkev – Erev Shabbat 30 July 2021
Week of 25– 31 July 2021.
Torah portion: Deut.7:12-11:25 Haftarah: Is.49:14-51:3
Theme: The Lord, your God is faithful
Moses in his last instruction to the Israelites stressed the importance of remembering that the relationship or bond that exists between God and the people is based on love, “Yet, the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you!” (Deut.7:15) God’s choosing of, loving, and blessing Israel can be heard in the words of the psalmist, “Come and see what God has done; he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.” (Ps. 66:5) It was Heschel who said it so succinctly, “Only a blessing that flows from love deserves to be called a blessing.” (Etz Hayim 1037)
In the covenant established by God, the people will receive only blessings when they adhere to the teaching and remain faithful. Our Parasha opens with the words, “If you heed these ordinances the Lord your God will maintain the covenant loyally.” (7:12) The word ‘to heed’ means to give attention to; to listen. Interestingly enough, there is no word in Hebrew for the word, ‘obey’; rather the word ‘listen’ is used. The whole focus of this book revolves around that one word, ‘listen.’ Actually it appears ninety-two times.
Alongside the theme of love and closely related to it, is that of gratitude. Never must the Israelites forget that it was God who freed them from Egypt with an outstretched arm (26:8). “Characterizing Israel as a people chosen by God is not an assertion of superiority, but a historical fact. It was through God’s using Israel as an instrument of divine revelation that the notion of ethical monotheism, the Decalogue, the prophets, and the psalms all came into the world.” (Hayim 1043)
As we look more closely at the Shema we see that in the first section, Deut. 6:4-9, the only focus is on the individual’s relationship with God. There is no mention of reward or punishment. Whereas, in the second portion, 11:13-21, it is stated in the plural, and benefits are given only if the relationship continues: “If you will only heed every commandment…then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains…I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.” (11:13-14)
Moses cautiously spoke of the danger that would soon face them. He feared that when they entered the land, the Israelites would be tempted toward idolatry since they would be surrounded by nations who worshipped numerous idols (11:16). If this happened, it could destroy them as a nation.
Reminding them of all that they would have: herds, flocks, barley, vines, oil, even iron and copper, Moses instructed them, not to become proud and to forget the Lord, your God (8:7-10). In all of the good things that were to happen to them, he reminded them that their response was the most important. They were to remember who they are and to whom they belong. “The Torah sings the praises of the land to emphasize too, the moral dangers and pitfalls that such gifts might bring with them.” (Leibowitz 88)
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Are love and gratitude my response to God’s blessings in my daily life? 2.) How deep is my trust in God? How do I nourish it?
Bibliography: Leibowitz, N, Studies in Devarim, (Maor Walloach Press, Israel, 2010); Lieber, D. Etz Hayim Torah and Commentary, (The Jewish Publication Society, Brooklyn, N.Y. 1985)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Rita Kammermayer, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna 2001