file Musings on Parshas Eikev

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1 month 3 weeks ago #856 by Heshy Berenholz
Musings on Parshas Eikev was created by Heshy Berenholz
v “Man does not live by bread alone”. Spiritual nourishment and historic awareness giveus perspective and purpose.v Prosperityand success can give way to hubris, self-righteousness,and religious apathy. We must be vigilant not to think that “it was my own strength and personal power [alone] that brought me all this prosperity.” v Idolatry is the idealization and worship of anything believed to begreater than God. We are prohibited from “worshiping”, forexample, money or technology in its many forms (bio, medical, computer,
Artificial Intelligence) as the ultimate power in the universe. v Theamount of rainfall in Israel may be a kind of divinecommunication to us about our level of faithfulness to Himv Godis munificent and we are obligated to express gratitude for this kindnessv Gratitude--hakaras ha’tov-- improves healthv Whenit comes to expressing thanks, we cannot rely on someone else doing it for us. We ourselves must utter the words “we give thanks”.v Eachof us is given the opportunity to experience fear (awe) of God and is free to
choose good or evil.v It is an absolute necessity to teach women Torahv Be productive, inventive, and help others
Ø Sixpositive mitzvahs and two prohibitionsØ Rewardsfor observing mitzvahsØ Notto fear surrounding nationsØ Urgentneed to eradicate idolatry lest the Israelites be temptedØ Rememberingthe forty-year desert trekØ “Man does not live by bread alone” Ø Thegoodness of the Promised Land:o  flowing streamso  wheat; barley; grapes; figs; pomegranates;oil producing-olives; and honey dateso  iron and copperØ BlessingGod after eating a meal (Birkas Hamazon)Ø Notto take sole credit for prosperityØ Warningsagainst idolatryØ Warningsagainst self-righteousness; the Israelites are “a stiff-necked people”Ø Rememberingthe Golden Calf incident; God heeds Moshe’s plea not to destroy the nationØ TheSecond TabletsØ Rebellionin the DesertØ Appointmentof the Tribe of LeviØ Mosheurges the nation to serve GodØ Miracleswitnessed by the IsraelitesØ Qualitiesof the Land of IsraelØ Secondparagraph of Shema  Ø Promiseof victory if the nation embraces God 
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks notes that the Torah has no word that onlymeans “to obey”. Instead, it utilizesthe Hebrew word shema, (a fundamentalmotif in this Sefer, where it is repeated some 92 times) that has a multiplicity of meanings ofwhich “to obey” is only one. Othersare…  §  Hearken§  Payattention§  Heed§  Hear§  Understand InJudaism, we cannot see God; we hear Him, we listen to Him, because He cannot be represented visually. Hearingis passive. Listening is active. The need to understand and absorb what one is
hearing is a core facet of our religious and personal life. We need to listen,really listen, so that we can hear what is being uttered by God (in HisTorah) and what is being said by our fellow man. Speaking and listening are
forms of engagement that create a relationship. Interestingly, the Babylonian
Talmud consistently uses the phraseology of listening, not of seeing, in its
discussions: ·       “Come and hear·       Hear from this” ·       “He could not hear it” “IfyouShamo’a tishme’u’ i]“indeed heed my commandments”[/i are the opening wordsof the second paragraph of Shema, the one that promises material rewards. A
more forceful translation of these words might be “If you listen—and Imean really listen!” [ Rabbi Sacks]. We are called upon to listen andunderstand – and not to engage in robot-like obedience. Aswe develop listening to God, we become attuned to listening to our fellow
humans—their pains, sufferings, anguish, loneliness, and poverty. Perhaps the
ultimate gift and respect to an individual is the ability to listen to him when
he expresses his worries and fears. Freudianpsychoanalysis is built on the ability of the therapist to actively listen to
the patient as he bares his soul. The listener validates the speakers’ thoughts
and emotions. Rabbi Sacks concludes that “Listening is a profound affirmation of the humanity of the other… tohear the emotion behind the words, to sense what is being left unsaid as well
as what was said”.
“V’haya Eikev Tishm’oon” (“If Only You Listen”)
 Whydoes this opening phrase of the Parsha utilize the unusual word “eikev” rather than the more familiar words “im” or “asher”? The word “eikev” can be translated as…  v If only you listen (AryehKaplan)v Because you listen (Rashi)v As a reward for listening (Radak)v As a result, if you listen (IbnEzra) v A heel (Rashi).The subtle message is that rewards come to those who observe even the seemingly
unimportant Mitzvahs that one might disregard as if kicking aside with the heel.  Less-obviousmeanings for the root word include:  v Tracev In consequence ofv Footstepsv Wake of a ship Ø TheTorah seems to view material benefits/prosperity as inevitable consequences of (not rewards for) good behavior just like one who walks is certain to leave footstepsand sailing ships are certain to create wakes   Ø Stu Dubner thinks that theallusion is to howone goes/gets along in life  Ø Othersnote that in ourlifetime each of us leaves a life trail (“footprintson the sand of time” in the words ofthe poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)  Dr. Alvin Schiff cited a Chassidic idea that self-improvementis a two-step process. The first step is honest self-examination.This is followed by the many steps that must be taken on theroad to change. 
Several Torah Guides to a HealthyEmotional Life
Do Not
Be grateful
Honor parents
Be idolatrous
Be a “mensch”
Be arrogant
Be considerate to everyone
Be self-righteous
Listen, really listen, and hear
Remain angry
Manna:Kindness or Test?
 Receivingdaily food (bread) and a double portion on Shabbos appears to be a wonderful,
miraculous gift from God. Yet here and in SeferShmos the Torah describes Manna as a test or trial! NechamaLeibowitz surveysseveral approaches to resolving this conundrum: §  Accordingto Rashi the test aspect relatesto the instructions accompanying thefood, not to the Manna itself. §  Ramban (1194-1270) maintains that the unusual,heavenly daily delivery of Manna meant that the Israelites were totally dependent on God. The test consisted ofthe daily apprehension that the hungryIsraelites experienced, not knowing whether the Manna would fall that day. Thus,
elaborates Jacob Zvi Mecklenberg (1785-1865) in Ha-ketav V’hakabala, every day the Israelites had to confront the extent of their faith andtrust in God. §  TheBiur (MosesMendelssohn, 1729-1786) sees this dependence as a positive in that the people became habituated to trust in Goduntil unswerving faith became part of their persona. Myfriend Rabbi Aaron Fruchter noted the juxtaposition of two issues that characterizedthe desert trek: The Manna (for which the Israelites had to wait anxiously
every day) and the Divine promise to give the Land of Israel to the Nation of
Israel (which Moshe repeats in every Parsha in this Sefer). Recentlyobserved Tisha B’Av reminds us of the failure of the Israelites to listen to and to believe in God’s promise of the Land of Israeland in His word that they would be able to conquer it. Post-Tisha B’Av it is
appropriate for us as individuals and as a nation to both believe in and to
publicly assert our historic rights to the Land of Israel. This action is
particularly timely and urgent in the wake of the surge of anti-Semitism and
anti-Israel sentiment and history revisionism (as relates to Jews and Israel)
around the world. 
On theBlessing of Rain
 Citiesoften are founded along rivers because rivers provide water for agriculture and
consumption as well as a means of transportation. The two greatest centers of
ancient civilization, Egypt and Mesopotamia, sprung up around the Nile and the
Euphrates rivers, respectively. TheEgyptians had developed an elaborate irrigation system of ditches from the Nile
River to the fields. Watering a field was done by kicking away dirt with one’s
foot (eikev?) from theseinterconnecting ditches and disconnecting was accomplished by kicking dirt (eikev) into the ditches to stop up the flow. In the Land of Egypt, plantsin the field were “watered with your foot”(eikev). This contrasts with the Landof Israel where water for agriculture comes from rains (matar). Isit more desirable to be in Israel and be totally dependent on rainfall (that is
unpredictable) or to live in lands like Egypt (near a river) that have a consistent
and constant supply of water but need manual (or foot) labor to irrigate? Rabbi Menachem Leibtag observes that theTorah appears to go out of its way to suggest that the rain-dependency is
better in that it serves as a constant reminder of the need to rely on climate,
over which one has no control. As we realize that our survival in Israel depends on God, we stand in aweof Him. Godpromises rain when we obey His commandments but threatens to lock up the
heavens if we don’t. Rabbi Leibtag concludes that the amount of matar in Israel is a kind of divine communication to us about ourlevel of faithfulness to Him. The Israel model is better for those seekinga closer relationship with God. Countries with more secure availability of
river water work best for those who do not. Furthermore,notes Rabbi Leibtag,the root-word matar means anything that falls from heaven toearth, of which rain is one obvious example. The word is used alsowhen describing bread (Manna) or fire coming down from the skies. Matar is a symbol of the link that existsbetween heaven and earth i.e., between God and Man. ElliotAllen notesthat one unintended (positive) consequence of the limited potable water supply
and the vicissitudes of the climate in Israel is the unleashing of enormous
creative forces which produced, among other breakthroughs, … ·       Autonomous irrigation systems utilizing artificialintelligence·       Desalination which accounts for 80% ofits needs ·       Wastewater treatment plants·       Piping and radar that reduce leakagerates to 7-8%, lowest in the world ·       Precision water meters ·       Pipes and valves for drip irrigation Thesetechnological advances are not only used in Israel but have been commercialized
to meet the needs of nations around the world.  Startup companies are working on concepts like… ·       Extracting water from humidity in the air·       Detecting contaminants in water·       Membrane filtration to remove harmfulviruses·       Sprinkler solutions to increase theeffectiveness of irrigation·       Designing water and wastewater plants ·       Offering turnkey solutions, services andconsulting to manage and fix leaky pipes 
You Shall Eat and be Satisfied and Bless theLord thy God for the Good Land That He Has Given You”
 Rav B.S. Jacobson offers information, insights and understandingof this Mitzvah of Birkas Hamazon:   ·       The Men of the Great Synagogue (Anshey Knesses H’agdolah) formulated the textof Grace after meals (as we have it today) as a trilogy. The fourth benediction
was added after the defeat of the Bar-Kochba revolt in 135 C.E.  ·       According to the Talmud, the firstbenediction of gratitude (“Who provides for all”) was instituted byMoshe when the Israelites received the Manna. The universal message is that it
is God Who provides food for the entire world. ·       Joshua instituted the second blessing (forthe land and for the food [it produces]”). This benediction, too, is universalin nature, reminding us as a nation of our indebtedness to God. Furthermore,our destiny is linked to (and exists in) our God-given land. ·       The third benediction (“…Who in His mercy rebuilds Jerusalem”)was instituted by King David (“…have mercyon Israel thy people and on Jerusalem…”) and King Solomon (“…and upon this great and sacred House…”).This benediction seems more like prayer than thanksgiving. We cite and pray for a return to the national ethos, independence andstrivings associated with a rebuilt Jerusalem and Holy Temple. ·       According to Ramban, this Birkas Hamazon commandment was includedin the context of the Manna story to remind the Israelites of God’s munificence
and our consequential obligation to express gratitude for this kindness. The
Talmud reasons that since a benediction is required after a meal, when one is satiated, how much more so must onebless God before he is aboutto eat when he is hungry and realizes his dependency on God to fulfill his
need. Godis the One that blesses. What does our blessing God in Birkas Hamazon really mean since He needs nothing from us?  Ø Aaron Halevy(author of Sefer HachinuchBook of Instruction) thinks that we areacknowledging that He, the totalityof blessings and the source ofblessings, is the Oneto Whom thanksgiving is due  Ø Joseph Alboconcludes that “Blessing is a termapplied to addition and increase in benefit and favor”. When applied to Godthe Giver the word is an adjective that expresses our awareness that everything that emanates from Himis a blessing (justlike using the adjectives mercifuland gracious to describe God meansthat these positives derive from Him)  Ø We“bench” (Yiddish corruption of theEnglish word benediction). Wereiterate and verbalize the profound truth that emanations from God increase
goodness and create positive influence in the world. By enunciating and thinkingabout the full meaning of what we are saying we can create an experiential momentwith God and sense His presence in our lives.  Ø Yehuda Halevy(in his book, the Kuzari) writes thatby saying a blessing over food, “weredouble our enjoyment”. Ø  Rabbi B.S. Jacobson sees in blessings the elevation of satisfying ourneeds from a “physical urge to aspiritual level, from the secular to the sacred”. Rabbi Sacks discusses the role that gratitude--hakaras ha’tov--plays in improvinghealth. Studies have documented that thankfulness reduces negative emotions
like resentment, frustration and regret …and even diminishes the chances of
depression. Grateful people tend to have healthier relationships. War veterans
with higher levels of gratitude experience lesser levels of Post-Traumatic
Stress Disorder. Recognitionthat we are not the sole source of goodness in our life promotes humility and reduces
arrogance. Andappreciation must come directly from us. During the repetition of the Amidah it is sufficient for thecongregation to respond “Amen” afterevery blessing except for “Modim” [“we give thanks”]. RabbiElijah Spira(1660-1712) explains that when it comes to expressing thanks we cannot rely on someone elsedoing it for us. Weourselves must utter the words “we givethanks”. 
What DoesGod Demand of Us?
  “Andnow, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of you only that youwill remain in awe of God your Lord, to walk in His ways and to love Him and to
serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, to keep the commandments
of the Lord and his statutes that I command you this day, for your own good?”   (Devarim10:12,13)
 “Whatdoes the Lord thy God require of you?” sounds like a minimal request but the answerto this rhetorical question is a list of difficult things to do and to feel!
How is this to be understood? ·       Rashifocuses on the need to fear God as the prime message. ·       The Talmud’s answer is that for Moshe, from his lofty level ofcloseness to God; with his unawareness of his spiritual superiority (“Anav M’od”, unassuming), this was a smallmatter.  ·       Rambanexplains that God only requires us to do the things that are for our own good (“L’tov Lach”). We are not being asked to sacrifice orgive up anything, only to do what is in our best interest. ·       Joseph Albo(14-15th century author of SeferHa’ikrim) thinks that because it is extraordinarily difficult for one toattain a heightened state of fear, love and service of God, He asks us to merely keep his commandments and statutes. Observing the mundane daily laws of the Torah graduallywill lead us to the ultimate elevated relationship with Him. Our deeds will lead us higher. ·       The word “raishes” is usually translated “beginning”as in “Raishes Chachma yiras Hashem”(“being in awe of God is the beginning of wisdom”).  Based, in part, on other times the word appearsin the Bible, Albo thinks the word is better translated as essence and the meaning of the phraseis “the fear of the Lord is the essence of wisdom”. God’s wanting us to be in awe ofHim is the essence of Him. ·       The Talmud concludes that “All is in the hands of Heaven except forfeeling the fear (awe) of Heaven.” Each of us is given the opportunity to experiencefear (awe) of God and is free to choose good or evil.
“And I Made an Ark of Acacia Wood”
 Moshedeposited the broken tablets in the ark that he had made. RabbiBerel Wein,in response to his questioning why Moshe focuses on the wood and does not refer
to the ark’s gold plating both on the inside and the outside, cites…·       Rashi, who believes the holygolden ark was never taken into battle. Only this wooden ark accompanied the
Israelites in their battles to conquer the land of Canaan.·       Other commentaries who state that thiswooden box refers to the holy ark that consisted of three boxes one inside the
other. The middle wood box referred to here was encased in an inner and an
outer box, each made of gold. ·       Ramban, who maintains thatthat this wooden ark of Moshe was temporary and was buried and hidden after the
golden ark was completed. InRabbi Wein’sview the emphasis on wood-- and by extension the tree it comes from-- is a
symbol of Torah, “the tree of life for all who embrace it”.And trees are life itself—renewable; productive; sources of shade and fruit
that benefit others; and inspiring in their beauty. The tree theme is associated withthe Ten Commandments as a reminder that the Torah encourages us humans to mimic
some of the tree’s characteristics— productivity; inventiveness; and helping


“acceptance of the yolk of heaven”
“acceptance of the yolk of Mitzvahs”
Writing style
in the singular
in the plural
Love of God
obedience to God
no mention
  Lists punishments that will result from failure to obey
Talks to
each of us individually
the entire nation

You Should Teach TheseWords to Your Sons to Speak of Them…”
TheLubavitcher Rebbestated that “…nowadays it is not only permissible to teach women even the deepestparts of the Torah, but it is an absolutenecessity to do so”. In the modern worldwhere women are exposed to a wide range of secular ideas it is critical that
they be grounded in Torah knowledge and ideas to cope with concepts that may be
antithetical to Torah.    RabbiH. L. Berenholz, C.F.A.        

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