Torah Weekly

For the week ending 4 August 2007 / 20 Av 5767

Parshat Ekev

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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If Bnei Yisrael carefully observe even those "minor" mitzvot that are usually "trampled" underfoot, Moshe promises them that they will be the most blessed of the nations of earth. Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael that they will conquer Eretz Canaan little by little, so that the land will not be overrun by wild animals in the hiatus before Bnei Yisrael are able to organize and settle the whole land. After again warning Bnei Yisrael to burn all carved idols of Canaanite gods, Moshe stresses that the Torah is indivisible and not open to partial observance. Moshe describes the Land of Israel as a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates, a land of oil-yielding olives and date-honey. Moshe cautions Bnei Yisrael not to become haughty and think that their success in Eretz Yisrael is a result of their own powers or vigor; rather, it was Hashem who gave them wealth and success. Nor did Hashem drive out the Canaanites because of Bnei Yisrael's righteousness, but rather because of the sins of the Canaanites, for the road from Sinai had been a catalogue of large and small sins and rebellions against Hashem and Moshe. Moshe details the events after Hashem spoke the 10 Commandments at Sinai, culminating in his bringing down the second set of Tablets on Yom Kippur. Aharon's passing is recorded as is the elevation of the levi'im to Hashem's ministers. Moshe points out that the 70 souls who went down to Egypt have now become like the stars of the heaven in abundance. After specifying the great virtues of the Land of Israel, Moshe speaks the second paragraph of the Shema, conceptualizing the blessings that accompany keeping mitzvot and the curse that results from non-observance.


Stealth Bomber

“And it will be if you hearken…” (3:23)

After the Yom Kippur war Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe flew to Egypt to visit the troops. As the plane prepared to enter Egyptian airspace it began to drop lower and lower until it was but a few meters off the ground. He asked the pilot if there was a problem with the engines. The pilot replied that the engines were fine and the reason they were flying so low was so that the Egyptian radar shouldn’t pick them up.

In the 1960s, a new form of advertising was discovered and almost immediately made illegal. Madison Avenue realized that inserting one single frame of an advertisement into a movie playing at 25 frames per second left a subliminal message imprinted in the mind of the viewer. Because of its extreme subtlety, the advertisement managed to sneak under the defenses of the consumer and plant itself in his subconscious. And without knowing it, the next time he was shopping, he had this over­powering attraction to buy Fidofeed over his usual brand of dog food.

The hidden persuasion of an advertisement consisting of a single frame in a film running at 25 frames a second is more powerful than a campaign of celebrity endorsements, billboards and prime-time barrage. Why?

Because we can only shield ourselves from that of which we are aware.

The nature of physicality is that it wants to reject spirituality. To sneak spirituality past our physical radar, we must conceal the spiritual like a low-flying plane.

To the untrained eye, the world seems to be made up of vast masses: Oceans, seas, land, and planets. In truth, however, everything in the physical world is made from minute particles.

The same is true of man. We are not built by the grand one-off gesture. Whom we are is the result of a myriad of minute actions and decisions, for the good or the bad. Our negative drive ignores these small good actions; they slip unnoticed beneath his radar.

“And it will be if you hearken…”

Rashi comments that if you do the small mitzvot on which people tread, G-d will keep his promise.

This promise is that from small actions, giant spiritual edifices will result.

  • Sources: Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe and Shiurei Da’at

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