Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 )
GOOD MORNING! Rabbi Eliezer Silver was a leader in Jewish Rescue during the Holocaust. After the war he visited Europe as a representative of United States Jewry to help Jews in any way possible. One of his missions was to reclaim Jewish children who were hidden out during the war with non-Jewish families. How was he able to find the children? He would go into a church during the service and loudly and proudly say, "Shema Yisroel Adonoy Eloheinu Adonoy Ehad!" Then he would look at the faces of the children for those with tears in their eyes - those children who remembered their mothers and fathers who put them to bed each night and said the Shema with them.
The Shema is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to One God. It permeates the Jewish consciousness as it permeates the Jewish day. It is one of the first things parents teach their children when they start to talk; it's recited in the morning and the evening prayers and, as mentioned, before going to sleep. Last week I presented the first part of an article by my friend and colleague, Rabbi Shraga Simmons which appeared on the aish.com website, http://www.aish.com/literacy/mitzvahs/Shema_Yisrael.asp This week we continue with an explanation of the second and third verses.
The second verse in the Shema is:
"And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources." (Deuteronomy 6:5)
What does it mean to "love God with all your heart"? The Talmud explains that the word "heart" is metaphorical for "desires." Even today we colloquially say, "I love chocolate," which means "I desire chocolate." When the Shema says to "love God with all your heart," it means to use not only your "good traits" like kindness and compassion to do God's will, but also to use your more challenging traits to serve Him.
For example, when you go to a nice restaurant, don't go because you want to gorge. Rather have in mind that you are eating in order to keep your body healthy, to be able to serve God. Similarly, if you were buying a CD of music, you should buy it in order to help you relax and better appreciate the world that God created.
What does it mean to "love God with all your soul"? It means even at the cost of your life. For generations Jews have given up their lives rather than submit to conversion. We knew and we know that there is something more important than life itself - to live, and if necessary, to die with meaning. There is no greater meaning than sanctifying God's name in both life and in death.
The final part of this verse says to "love God with all your resources." This is difficult to understand, because typically the Torah presents a series as a progression from easiest to hardest. Here, the order is: Love God emotionally ("heart"), and even be willing to give up your life if necessary ("soul"), and even be willing to spend your money, too!
If this is a progression, are there really people who consider money more important than life itself?! The answer is yes. The Talmud (Brachot 54a) speaks about someone walking across a thorny field, and picks up his pants in order to avoid getting them ripped. The person's legs get all cut up and scratched -but at least the pants are saved!
In Nevada, where gambling is legal and every hotel has a casino, hotel room windows are specially designed not to open more than a crack - so people who lose money gambling won't be tempted to jump out the window. Yes, for some, money is more important than life itself.
Now, in our turbulent times, each of us - men, women, and children -can help in a simple, yet powerful way: Every morning and evening, take a 15-second break from whatever you are doing and say the Shema.
The important thing is to understand and concentrate on the meaning of the words. If you don't understand Hebrew, you can say it in English as well. And then make it a goal to learn the pronunciation and meaning to be able to say it in Hebrew as well.
Parents can say the Shema out loud with their children. It can be very comforting to children to have a nightly ritual of saying the Shema, a prayer to the Almighty to protect them. It is a wonderful, bonding experience, to hold your children each night as they cover their eyes and say the Shema. Saying the Shema is a simple, six-word formula to unite all peace-loving people and to bring more spiritual light into our world.
Torah Portion of the Week
Moshe continues his soliloquy guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the Mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success lest that we forget and ignore God.
Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness ("Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to occupy this land ... but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you.") He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments after the sin of the Golden Calf.)
This week's portion dispels a common misconception. People think that "Man does not live by bread alone" means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is:
"Man does not live by bread alone, but by all that comes out of God's mouth." (Deut. 8:3)
The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of
"What does God want of you? Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God's commandments and decrees ... so that all good will be yours." (Deut. 10:12)
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
In this week's portion there is a warning for us not to forget the Almighty when we become prosperous and when we think "my strength and the power of my hand made me all this wealth" (Deut. 8:17). The Torah tells us in this section that the sufferings and afflictions which we suffered in the 40 years in Sinai desert were given "in order to test you, to do good for you in your end" (Deuteronomy 8:16). What does this mean?
The Chofetz Chaim comments that the affliction of the Israelites was in order to test them out to see if they would behave in an elevated manner even though they had difficulties. The Hebrew term "nasoscho," which means "test" also means "to be elevated." Both concepts fit together. When someone acts in an elevated manner when he has difficult life-tests, he becomes elevated. This concept applies to each individual in each generation. This is especially so when you suffer while doing the Almighty's will. Our lesson: Rather than complain, look at ways to improve our character and traits when faced with adversity.
CANDLE LIGHTING - July 26:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:15 Hong Kong 6:48 Honolulu 6:55
J'Burg 5:20 London 8:38 Los Angeles 7:41
Melbourne 5:10 Miami 7:52 Moscow 8:28
New York 8:00 Singapore 6:58
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
To hear is human;
to listen is divine.
With special thanks to