This week’s Torah portion Ekev, continues Moses’ farewell address to the Children of Israel. Moses is trying to prepare the Israelites for entering the Promised Land. Moses reminds them that despite their errors and sins along the journey from Egypt (The Golden Calf, the lies of the spies, the lack of faith, the demand to satisfy their lust for meat,) God is fulfilling the promise and covenant made with the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For their sake the Israelites will be able to cross over the Jordan into a new life!
Moses tries to make sure that the Israelites won’t forget their past! No one achieves success on their own. By reminding the Israelites of their ancestors and of God’s faith in them the Israelites can go on to achieve great things in the Promised Land. But Moses also reminds them of their own duty to be faithful to the One God and not stray into idol worship. These will break the covenant and cause havoc within the household of Israel. They are able to cross over on the merit of their ancestors but to maintain their stakehold in Eretz Yisrael they will be accountable for their own actions.
Moses reminds the Israelites that the bounty of a land flowing with milk and honey must not be taken for granted. God helped provide this land to them. And God must not be forgotten. The wealth and abundance of Eretz Yisrael must not lead them to forget the role the Holy One has played and continues to play in their lives. They are God’s treasured ones. If they let their own egos get in the way-then they will see the land and it’s plenty slip from them. Thus they are to thank God for the food they eat and bless the land that grows its fruits.
This is as applicable today as it was in ancient times. All too often we think we do everything on our own. Our success and our failures are part of a larger picture of ourselves. We are shaped by our family and friends. We are shaped by our faith and Jewish traditions and customs. Even if we are not the most “religious” of Jews, we are taught that everything we have comes from God! And we can and ought to give thanks for the many gifts that help us succeed. We have blessings in Jewish tradition for everything; For health, for the body working; for food; for wine; for a rainbow seen in the sky. Gratitude helps us put our lives and all we have been blessed with into perspective.
In a week when more tragedy has struck our country, the burning of a mosque in Missouri and the deaths of so many at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and we are barely recovered from the shootings in Aurora, Colorado, we feel the pain caused by hatred. As Jews we know what it is like to be seen as the other. The unity of all humanity is a principle of Jewish teaching. The Shema prayer reminds us of God’s oneness and humanity’s task to be one with God. Even as hatred rears its ugly head to demean others. We must assert each and every day: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. This is the prime principle.
May the memories of those who died be for a blessing.