Torah Weekly - Parshat Eikev

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Parshat Eikev

For the week ending 18 Av 5759 / 30 & 31 July 1999

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    If Bnei Yisrael are careful to observe even those "minor" mitzvos 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 what they will have in Eretz Yisrael is a result of their own powers or vigor; rather they must always remember that 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 together with the elevation of the Levites to ministers to Hashem. Moshe points out that the 70 souls who went down into 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, which conceptualizes reward for keeping the mitzvos and penalty for not keeping them.




    "And it will be that if you hearken to My commandments." (11:13)

    One of the ten commandments of Hollywood is "If it makes money, let there be born unto it a Son. A sequel. Or a prequel. Let it contain all the same stars, and let the plot be so close to its progenitor that you're not sure if you're actually watching a different film or the original one."

    Jews recite the three paragraphs of "Shema" twice a day. The second paragraph of "Shema" looks like "Son of Shema." It has the same mitzvot - to love G-d and to serve Him with all your heart, etc.; to speak of the mitzvot when you're sitting in you home and walking along the way, to wear tefillin; to put up a mezuzah on your door. Haven't we heard all this before?

    All over the world there are speed limits on roads. In the States it's a mind-numbing 55 MPH. In England it's 70 MPH. A speed limit is to prevent a person from killing himself. Seeing as that's the reason, why do we need a system of fines and penalties to stop people speeding? Isn't losing one's life a far more persuasive reason to slow down than losing $75 dollars for a speeding ticket?

    A smaller but more immediate danger can impact us more than a danger which is greater but more remote.

    In reality, nothing exists but G-d. Thus, the only thing that really can be called "good" is being close to G-d. In the first paragraph of the Shema, no results are stated for doing the mitzvot because it's self-evident that doing them brings us close to G-d. That's the real good.

    Human nature being what it is, however, the Torah repeats those same mitzvot in this week's Parsha, adding that if we do them we will have rain at its proper time; we'll gather our grain, our wine, our oil. G-d will provide grass for our cattle. We'll eat and be satisfied. And if we don't keep the mitzvot, then there will be no rain, the ground won't yield its produce, and eventually we will be exiled.

    None of these blessings and curses can compete with the true good of closeness to G-d; it's just that sometimes the threat of $75 speed ticket is more eloquent than the possibility of not making it home at all.

    (Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky)


    Yishayahu 49:14 - 51:3



    No matter how far the Jewish people fall from favor, they can never lose their status as the Chosen People of Hashem. That is the underlying theme of the Parsha and its Haftorah. This is the second of the seven Parshiot of consolation after Tisha B'Av. This Haftorah is the source of the famous phrase "light unto the nations." Isaiah tells the Jewish People that despite the terrible tragedies and hardships of exile, he does not despair - he knows that the end of the exile is coming. And so he pleads with his contemporaries and all of their offspring throughout all the generations to remember that they are the children of Avraham and Sarah, and that Hashem will surely comfort them.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Eli Ballon
    Html Design: Michael Treblow
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