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Impress these Words on Your Heart

Parshat Ekev

Deuteronomy 7:12- 11:25

In this week’s portion, Ekev, in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is addressing the Children of Israel and repeats and repeats and repeats the core message, “Be faithful to God and the Covenant. Don’t engage in idol worship!” Moses says this over and over again in many different ways: “And if you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, your God Adonai will maintain faithfully for you the covenant…”;(7:12); “You shall faithfully observe all the instructions that I enjoin upon you today that you may thrive and increase and be able to possess the land that Adonai promised on oath to your fathers. (8:1);  “Take care lest you forget your God and fail to keep the divine commandments, rules and laws which I enjoin upon you this day” (8:11); “You must revere Adonai.”(10:20); “Love therefore, your God Adonai, and always keep God’s charge, God’s law, God’s rules, and God’s commandments.” (11:1).

Wow! Moses must think they are not listening.  He says the same thing so many times and so many different ways. But I think with good reason.  His experience with the Children of Israel on the journey through the years is proof.  They don’t listen and their faith in God and the covenant waxes and wanes. Moses must recount the journey to this group because this is the generation born in the desert. He recalls the failings of their parents including the incident of the Golden Calf as well as other moments when the children of Israel doubted God and rebelled.

The group Moses is addressing did not have the direct experience of Sinai only what their parents had told them.  And Moses is also mindful of this fact and that the children of those who will enter the Promised Land will also not have had that direct Sinai experience. “Take thought this day that it was not your children who neither experienced nor witnessed the lessons of your God Adonai” (11:2). Thus Moses wants the brief history from the Red Sea to steppes of Moab to be emblazoned in the minds and hearts of this new desert dwelling generation who will be the warriors to conquer the Promised Land.  He needs them to be motivated to their task and to see themselves as part of the chain of this covenant that stretches way beyond the generation that left Egypt and witnessed Sinai but extending to the ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

We have a similar challenge today.  We need the message of God’s saving hand told to us over and over again.  We need to figure out how we fit into this long line of history and covenant and promise.  That is the spiritual journey.  We might not be in the literal Wilderness of Sinai but most of us are wandering in a wilderness of some sort.

Our traditions of Judaism help us cross through that wilderness connected to a People and Ethics to guide us to become the holy people and holy nation.  If we can chase away our doubts but more importantly our fears, we can let the promise of our covenant with the Holy Divine One help us seek contentment and peace.

So in these weeks between Tisha B’av and Rosh Hashanah, let us prepare our souls for growing and our spirits for reviving at the Oasis of faith and hope. As this week’s portion concludes, “Therefore impress these My words upon your very heart. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead and teach them to your children-reciting them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. And inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates to the end that you and your children may endure in the land that Adonai swore to your ancestors to assign to them as long as there is a heaven over the earth” (11:18-21).