In Parashat Eikev, we read: “A human being does not live on bread alone…” (Deut. 8:3). Found on inspirational posters, T-shirts, and in the titles of a great many cookbooks, this short statement constitutes one of the most well-known phrases from Eikev and from the Book of Deuteronomy as a whole. The phrase has come to mean that mere physical sustenance is not sufficient for a life of fulfillment; rather, people need and desire spiritual and cultural nourishment as well. Many Jewish commentaries have noted that, in context, this phrase actually insinuates close to the opposite of our conventional understanding; rather, that human beings can survive on things other than bread.
I greatly appreciate Cantor Elizabeth Sacks’ close reading of the text, which brings out that Parashat Eikev, “subtly reminds us that we not only must engage our tradition intellectually and spiritually, but also we must literally embody our connection as well.” What a wonderful insight. I want to focus on another part of this parashah: the question of how a belief in God can change our lives. Moses warns the people to keep God's commandments or suffer the consequences (Deut. 8:11-19). Over the years, I find that belieiving in God and showing grattitude have a positive result.