Short Dvar Torah on Parshat Ekev 5775 2015

This weekly Portion starts with the words: וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה, “And it shall be as a consequence if you shall harken to these Mitzvot.” (Deut. 7,12) The Hebrew word for “as a consequence” is עֵקֶב. This word has another meaning in Hebrew. It means heel. Because the Torah uses this word Rashi presumes it is talking about those minor Mitzvot that one is apt to tread upon with his foot.

Besides meaning “minor Mitzvot” perhaps it also means performing a Mitzvah in a minor way. For example, instead of buying a nice set of Lulav and Etrog although he can afford it, one buys a cheap set to save money.

Another example would be if a poor individual asks you for a donation you give him a dollar when you know he could use more. That could also be considered trampling on the Mitzvah.

Rashi is trying to emphasize that all the Mitzvot have a value which we may not realize. Hence, it is important for us to do all the Mitzvot with our full heart. We never know what value they have or what effect they can have on others. Rashi implies the Torah refers to minor Mitzvot but it can also be referring to doing Mitzvot in a minor way.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ekev 5773 2013

Moshe continues his discourse to the Children of Israel. He warns them about the time they will enter the Promised Land and will settle and begin to prosper. They should not forget whence their prosperity comes.

He says to them: פֶּן תֹּאכַל וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבָתִּים טֹבִים תִּבְנֶה וְיָשָׁבְתָּ, “lest you eat and be satisfied, and you build good houses and you settle, and your cattle and sheep and goats increase, and you increase silver and gold for yourselves…”. (Deut. 8,12) You have to remember that all this comes from Hashem.

In this one verse we find described the ascending different levels of needs and wealth with which a person can be blessed. First is mentioned food. One cannot survive without food. Then is mentioned a home. It is difficult to live today without a home. Then is mentioned the means of livelihood. In ancient times a person could make his living by raising cattle and sheep. Today, of course, there are other means of earning a living. Then the final measure of wealth is indicated, namely, silver and gold or an accumulation of financial assets.

Not everyone is blessed with all of these gifts. Some have the bare minimum and some are granted with the excesses that life can offer. The message that Moshe is conveying is that we must recognize that whatever it is we have comes not from our own doing but is bestowed upon us by the blessings of Hashem. True, we must work to earn them ourselves, but it is only through the blessings of Hashem that we succeed in acquiring our needs and our wealth.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ekev 5772 2012

In our religious teachings we have a concept of זכות אבות, parental merit. This means that if we do not earn the heavenly rewards from Hashem by our own advantage, if our parents or previous ancestors were worthy people their merit benefits us as well.

Our Sidra starts with the words: וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן, “This will be the reward when you hearken…” to the laws and the Mitzvot commanded you, Hashem will keep, אֶת הַבְּרִית וְאֶת הַחֶסֶד אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ: “…He will keep for you the covenant…which he swore to your forefathers.” (Deut. 7,12)

This means if the Jews will adhere to the Torah and the obligations it places on us, then Hashem will keep the promise made to our forefathers directly with us: לך, for you. This implies there will be no need for זכות אבות, for the merit of our parents or forefather. We will have earned the covenant with Hashem ourselves, on our own merit.

This indeed is a worthy promise and it places on our shoulders the responsibility to secure this promise on our own directly from Hashem.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ekev 5771 2011

Moshe describes a terrible scene that took place at Mt. Sinai. He relates how he came down from the mountain carrying the two tablets with the words of Hashem engraved on them and he saw how the people had created an idol and were worshipping it. His reaction was of horror and he shattered the tablets with the Ten Commandments, as he describes it: VA’ASHABREM LE’EYNEYCHEM, …and I smashed them before your eyes.” (Deut. 9,17)

The expression “before your eyes” is a very telling one. He did not say he destroyed the Ten Commandments, but that he smashed them “before your eyes”. This was a visible scene. This was an act to gain their attention. The Commandments were not destroyed. Only the tablets were.

This is emphasized in what the Midrash relates to us about what happened when the Romans martyred Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon. He was wrapped in a Torah scroll and was burned to death. At this tragic moment he said that he sees the scroll burning but the words were floating in the air. The physical Torah could be destroyed but not its teachings. That was what happened with the tablets.

The world could not exist without these directives that came down to us directly from Hashem. They were the foundation of society and civilization. They were not only for the Jewish people but for all mankind.

The world has gradually come to recognize their significance and has theoretically adopted them. The world recognizes the truth and the necessity for these rules in order for civilization to survive.

It is unfortunate that the world has abandoned them in our time. Forsaking these ideals has led the world to a terrible spiritual vacuum and a destructive secular existence. 

 

Dvar Torah Parshat Ekev 5770 2010

Moshe in his address to the people before his demise continues to recount what happened during their journeys. In describing their situation he says about Hashem: VAYE’ANCHA VAYARIVECHA VAYA’ACHILCHA ET HAMMAN, “He afflicted you and let you hunger and he fed you the manna…”. (Deut. 8,3) This seems to be a contradiction in itself. If they received the manna they were not let to hunger.

The “Da’at Zekenim” on this Pasuk quotes a statement of Chazal to clarify this apparent inconsistency. Chazal tell us: “You cannot compare one who has bread in his basket with one who does not have bread in his basket.” (Yoma 18b) The meaning is that someone who has a supply of food is not worried that he will go hungry. On the other hand, a poor person who receives a gift of food daily but has nothing to depend on until the next gift is forthcoming, goes around worrying where will he get his next meal.

This is what the Israelites felt. They had to pick their manna daily and although they knew they could depend on Hashem, one never knows when conditions would change and the wonderful manna would be withheld.

Dvar Torah Parshat Ekev 5769 2009

In the first paragraph of the Shema which we read last week we are charged to love Hashem: BECHOL LEVAVCHA UVECHOL NAFSHECHA UVECHOL ME’ODECHA, “with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might”. In the second paragraph of the Shema, which is extracted from this week’s Torah Portion, we read a similar directive but one aspect is omitted.

In this second paragraph we simply read that we are directed to love Hashem: BECHOL LEVAVCHEM UVECHOL NAFSHECHEM, “with all your heart and with all your soul”. (Deut. 11,13) Why is “with all your might” excluded?

The word ME’ODECHA or “your might” Chazal interpret to mean all your resources. When it comes to accepting Hashem and worshipping Him, which is the thrust of the first paragraph, one should be ready to go to the limit and if it requires spending exorbitant funds one must do so. The second paragraph talks about accepting the obligation of performing the Mitzvot. Here Chazal state there is a limit. One must not spend more than an additional fifth of the true price to perform a Mitzvah.

Hence in the second paragraph ME’ODECHA, “with all your might” is omitted. There is a limit to what you have to spend to perform a Mitzvah.

This is especially noteworthy as we approach the holiday of Succot and will be purchasing a Lulav and Etrog. We should be mindful of the fact that we are not permitted to overspend beyond the reasonable limits.

Dvar Torah Parshat Evek 2008 5768 דבר תורה פרשת עקב

Moshe continues his talk to the people in the Wilderness before they enter into the Promised Land. He tells them that Hashem asks them only to follow His Mitzvot and to adhere to His teachings. Then he adds a phrase that seems superfluous. In describing Hashem he says to them: ASHER LO YISA PANIM VELO YIKACH SHOCHAD, “…He does not show favor and does not accept a bribe.” (Deut. 10,17)

What exactly are we being told? Is there any kind of bribe that we can offer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu? What exactly can we be suspected of offering from man to Hashem that would have any meaning?

The Sifre deals with this matter and explains it as follows: “The merits a person earns are never exchanged for transgressions and transgressions are never exchanged for merits.” (Sifre Deut. 33;6)

Someone who has many Mitzvot and he transgresses and performs an Avera, he might think that his Mitzvot will compensate for his Avera. What Moshe is saying is that Hashem cannot be bribed with the Mitzvot to overlook the Avera. He will be awarded for the Mitzvot but will also be punished for the Avera. A wrong can never be corrected with a right.