Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 )
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GOOD MORNING! When I was in the Israeli army at the beginning of the "Intifada" we were directed to move a group of Arabs away from the road in a little town called Halhoul on the way to Hebron. The government wanted to keep them from stoning cars on the road. We formed a line and walked from the main road up a street on the hill; the Arabs formed a line in front of us and also progressed up the hill. Along the sides of the street were old Arab women who were cursing us in Arabic. Being of American upbringing and not knowing Arabic, I just smiled and nodded my head. However, there was one soldier, Yossi, a 6'4" Sefardi Jew who understood Arabic. He was going wild! It took 2 soldiers to hold him back. There is a big difference between hearing and between understanding and taking it to heart!
This week's Torah portion has many important messages for us as Jews. Unfortunately, most Jews don't read the weekly Torah portion. And for those who do read it, many may not have done the weekly preparation (twice in Hebrew, once in translation). So, I thought to share with you some of the Almighty's messages for us from this week's Torah portion, Ekev. Hopefully, you, beloved reader, will not only read it - but understand and take it to heart.
The Torah portion opens with:
"This shall be the reward for listening to these laws and doing them; the Lord your God will guard the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you. He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain, your wine and your oil; the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks, on the Land that He swore to your forefathers to give to you. You will be blessed above all nations. Neither you nor your flocks will be barren. The Almighty will remove from you all sickness nor let all of the terrible afflictions of the Egyptians that you experienced be put upon you. Instead He shall put them upon your enemies." (Deuteronomy7:12-15)
What makes us Jews? Either we were born to a Jewish mother or we were properly converted. What makes us Jewish? Doing the Mitzvot (God's commandments). Every Jew is on a scale of observance - from few Mitzvot to many Mitzvot. Not one of us is perfect, performs all of the Mitzvot or does every Mitzvah in the best possible manner.
What is the Torah portion telling us? The more Mitzvot that we do in the best possible manner, the greater will be the blessings the Almighty will bestow upon us.
There is a story of a rabbi who is asked to give a guest lecture in a synagogue. The synagogue's rabbi cautions him, "Don't speak about Shabbat. Many of the congregants are not Shabbat observant. And don't speak about Kashruth. Many of the congregants don't keep Kosher. Also, don't speak about learning Torah. Many congregants don't make time to learn Torah. The visiting rabbi asked, "Then, please tell me, what should I speak about?" "Why," says the synagogue rabbi, "speak about Judaism!"
What should we do? Learning leads to action. I highly recommend Rabbi Haim Donin's book, To Be a Jew (available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242), which explains in easy to understand language Jewish life and Mitzvot. There is something in it for all of us to do more Mitzvot and to do them in a better manner.
A friend of mine was asked to speak as a guest lecturer in a synagogue. He asked the rabbi, "Is there anything that I shouldn't speak about that might be too sensitive?" The rabbi replied, "No. Speak about whatever you want. My congregants are Yenemites." My friend was puzzled by the rabbis words. Yenemites? He had heard of Yemenites, but surely the congregants didn't come from Yemen. My friend gave his talk with great vim and vigor urging the listeners to higher levels of observance and learning. After the services, he and the rabbi greeted the congregants as they left synagogue. One man congratulated the speaker on his talk, "It was just what the guy sitting next to me needed to hear!" Said the rabbi to my friend, "See. I told you they were Yenemites - from the Yiddish word 'yenem,' meaning 'others.'. They don't take messages to heart, they always think you are speaking to the other guy." Let us strive to NOT be Yenemites and to take what we learn to heart and to action!
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." (Deuteronomy 8:3)
The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself:
"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." (Deuteronomy 10:12)
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And it shall be if you hearken to My commandments which I command you this day..." (Deuteronomy 11:13)
This is a section of the Torah that is recited daily in the Shma Yisroel. The Torah tells us that there will be a reward for observing the Almighty's commandments. On the first Hebrew word of this verse, "vehayah", the Ohr HaChayim comments: Vehayah denotes joy. There is a condition in this verse that the commandments should be fulfilled with joy. True joy comes only when a person does good deeds. However, if a person has high feelings without true meaning, it is only a temporary state that will not last.
There are many attitudes a person can have towards doing good deeds. One attitude is guilt for not doing what is right. Another attitude is fear of punishment. However, even though in verses 16 and 17 the Torah warns of retribution for doing wrong, the attitude that comes first should be joy for doing good.
Most people eat because they enjoy eating. If a person does not eat for a number of days, his life is in danger. In any event, very few people sit down to a delicious meal and say to themselves, "I'd better eat or else I'll die." If a person has no appetite whatsoever he has to force himself to eat, but the vast majority of people focus on the pleasure or at least the pleasantness of eating. Similarly with Mitzvot. Keep your focus on the joy of spiritual fulfillment. If someone has no appetite for doing good, he needs to find other motivations. A spiritually healthy person will experience great pleasure in doing good!
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
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In Honor of the Bat Mitzvah of