Torah Weekly

For the week ending 8 August 2020 / 18 Av 5780

Parashat Ekev

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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If Bnei Yisrael carefully observe even those "minor" mitzvahs 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 Mount 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 Mount Sinai, culminating in his bringing down the second set of Tablets on Yom Kippur. Aharon's passing from this world is recorded, as is the elevation of the Levi'im to be Hashem's ministers. Moshe points out that the 70 souls who went down to Egypt have now become like the stars of 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 mitzvahs and the curses that result from non-observance.


Wealth and Poverty

"See! I am putting in front of you today a blessing and a curse." (11:26)

Wealth and poverty do not always have the same effect on people.

There are those whose wealth influences them for the good, and through the blessing of their wealth they come to a greater appreciation of Hashem. However, had they been poor, they would have been so occupied trying to find food that they would have forgotten their Creator. This was the case in Egypt, where the Bnei Yisrael were so exhausted by the hard labor that they did not listen to Moshe.

On the other hand, there are those whom wealth removes from the path of righteousness. We have seen too often in our history that the Jewish People become successful and self-satisfied and forget Who gave them what they have. However, when a person is poor and "broken," Hashem never ignores his supplications.

That is what the verse is saying here: "See! I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse" — and don't think that the blessing is wealth and the curse is poverty. Rather, everything depends on how a person deals with his riches or poverty. And whether he is rich or poor, if he turns his focus to the Torah and mitzvahs, then whatever his status is in life — he receives the blessing.

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