On my first Shabbat in
On my first Shabbat in
Parashat Eikev gives us the familiar phrase, “man does not by bread alone.” Does it mean that spiritual sustenance is more important than bread? Or was it meant to teach ancient Israelites to trust in God and not stores of food? It all depends on the context.
Parashat Eikev tells us that manna was created to test the Israelites by hardships (Deuteronomy 8:16). What were the hardships? Was the manna too scarce to fully satisfy a person’s hunger? Or was the uncertainty of whether the manna would fall the next day the main hardship for the Israelites? Was the manna ugly or unpleasant to eat? Ancient Sages debate this question.
"And Moses went (Vayeilech) and spoke these words to all Israel" (Deuteronomy 31:1). This opening marks the beginning, not only of the parashah, but also of the long death scene for Moses that will not be completed until the very end of the Torah two portions hence. Traditional commentators noticed an unusual locution. Usually the Torah reads "And Moses spoke … " Only here does it say "And Moses went and spoke … "
Dr. Firestone beautifully suggests that vayeilech Moshe, "Moses went," means that Moses went to the Israelites before his death and spoke words of t'shuvah, encouraging the people to repent, and to pursue peace between each other and between each of them and God. Just a few verses later, the word "to go" appears again, only this time it is God who "goes."
"V'haya im shamoa — If then, you listen, yes, you really heed My commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the Eternal your God and serving [God] with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land in its season. . . . "
This section of our Torah portion is known as V'haya im Shamoa, and is included in the daily and Shabbat morning service in traditional prayer books right after the Shema and V'ahavta prayers. Reform siddurim omit it, perhaps it because it feels a bit simplistic. The message seems to contradict our understanding of nature and weather: if you obey God's commandments nature will be good to you, but if you stray and serve other gods the Eternal will punish you through acts of nature.
Rabbi Firestone offers a beautiful understanding of V'haya im shamoa, "If we truly listen . . . " If we do God's will, follow God's commandments, nature will be good to us. As our modern understanding of weather contradicts this theology, Firestone suggests we read the text as a call to sustain and protect nature.
Protection seems all at once an easy and a daunting task. The course is clear — reduce, reuse, recycle, carpool, minimize your carbon footprint — yet changing our lifestyles proves far more difficult. Why do we struggle so with the tasks essential to the survival of our world, our children, our way of life?
The Chasidic tradition brings us the following story:
Something felt different this year. Tragedy after tragedy opened our eyes to injustice in new, heartbreaking ways.
A baby boy born with a defective heart has multiple surgeries before his first birthday and will suffer from physical and cognitive impairments for as long as he lives.
Rabbi Korotkin deftly explores the challenges of how we might understand, today, the system of rewards and punishments that are laid out so matter-of-factly in this week's Torah portion, Eikev
In Vayeilech, the shortest portion in the Torah, Moses tells the people that he will not be leading them into the Land of Israel, per God's instruction; instead, Joshua
We read this short parashah on Shabbat Shuvah this year during the time that our liturgical tradition is most focused on t'shuvah.
At the edge of the Promised Land, Moses convenes his people one last time, to draw them into the covenant between them and their God.
When Moses addresses the Israelite nation before his passing, he goes to great lengths to assure that everyone gathered is explicitly included as part of the covenantal community.
"All the world needs is love." We hear that refrain in our music, in our theologies, in conversations prosaic and profound.
Rabbi Milgrom's d'var Torah explores our conditional brit, covenant, with the Eternal. We read, "If, then, you obey the commandments . . .
All the Jewish endings come together every year. Here we are at the last Shabbat of 5770. We are almost at the end of the Torah, with just five chapters left to go.
There is a story told by Winston Lord of a speech he wrote for Henry Kissinger. “[Kissinger] called me in the next day and said, ‘Is this the best you can do?’ . . .