Torah Weekly

For the week ending 27 August 2016 / 23 Av 5776

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 on 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 ten 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.


Taste Boost

“...a Land where you will eat your bread without poverty — you will lack nothing there.” (8:9)

Reading the ingredients on the back of a snack packet today is a bit like examining a chemical formula. The connection to 'food' seems somewhat tenuous. We live in a world where we crave taste, even if that taste is synthetic and raises health questions.

It seems to me that the taste of 'sweets' and 'nosh' was not as aggressive when I was a kid. Nowadays, the packet proudly proclaims that the contents are so 'hot', so spicy, that they compete with the “fires of the underworld”. Or 'sour sticks' that have so much acetic acid that the lining of your stomach is probably scoured better than your Shabbat urn after a good cleaning.

Really, the fact that the taste of things needs to be maxed-out is yet another symptom of Exile.

“...a Land where you will eat your bread without poverty — you will lack nothing there.”

The Chida writes that in his youth he heard from the Sages of Castille that a pauper eats his bread without anything on it because he has nothing to put on it. However, in Eretz Yisrael the bread will be so tasty that it will need nothing else.

That's what the verse is hinting to here: the bread that we will eat there in Eretz Yisrael without anything on it will be “without poverty” — i.e., it will not be because we won't have anything to put on it, rather it will be because, “you will lack nothing there.” The bread itself will be so full of taste that it will need no outside boost.

  • Source: based on Talelei Orot

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