23 Av 5782
How do we Balance the Material World with the Spiritual?
To listen to the Recorded message, click on https://youtu.be/QUV–x7Fj2U
For this Shabbat, trying to synthesize so much richness in this parashah, Ekev has been a real challenge because when analyzing each verse, it is so deep with application for practical living.
The word Ekev עֵקֶב in Gematria equals 172, a very beautiful symbolic number since the ten sayings (Aseret Hadibrot) are comprised of 172 words. 1+7+2, when added, equals 10 which symbolizes fullness, and 10 is equivalent to the letter Yud (י), also a letter with deep meaning. Yud is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet but that does not give it lesser value; the yud is the first letter of each line of the Aaronic benediction, the priestly blessing that we recite every Shabbat. It is the first letter of the tetragrammaton יהוה — Yud – Heh – Vav – Heh and alludes to ישראל (Yisrael) and to Yaakov יעקב, which has its root in Ekev, which means heel symbolizing the lowest part of our body that we use to walk on the earth. Therefore, our mission is to enter the depths of the materialistic world and infuse it with the Yud of God, Divinity.
Keeping this in mind, we see that this portion holds a practical explanation of the commandments, which function as the heel, connecting “the earth” to the entire body, which connects the lower parts of the body to the upper. Here is a portion of an article by Professor Marisa Bergman: “Ekev is the underground cable and fulfilling it “consequently” allows us to grow not only on the material plane but also spiritually, to be a recipient of blessings of a humble, connected and grateful self; working on our own personal skills to enjoy our riches in all its variables. On the other hand, it also refers to the performance of good deeds, mitzvot, that must encompass all parts of the body, from the highest to the lowest. The heel symbolizes the part of the body linked to walking since the mitzvah is the path that marks the way in which we walk through life.”
Ekev is also a relational connector, where the causes/consequences or effects of our actions are revealed. In this portion, we read in Devarim 7:12: “And it will be because you will heed these ordinances and keep and perform them, that the Lord, your God, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers”. Later, Moses mentions the consequences of obedience such as material blessings, the abundance of children, security, and peace, among other blessings.
However, the Torah warns us of the dangers of excessive material blessing, not born out of an obedient heart, which does not continually remember the Eternal’s goodness and allows itself to become inflated, to become Yeshurun יְשֻׁרוּןas Moses later calls Israel in Devarim 32:15. I think that this type of blessing becomes an “Illusion” or “smokescreen” which can detract us from God’s purpose. This “illusion” is born from an ungrateful heart, as Psalm 103:2 says: “Bless the LORD O My soul and do not forget any of His benefits” Barchi Nafshi et Adonai Ve’al Tishkechi Kol Guemulaiv בָּרְכִי נַפְשִׁי, אֶת-יְהוָה; וְאַל-תִּשְׁכְּחִי, כָּל-גְּמוּלָיו.
Moshe, enlightened by the Eternal and with the wisdom of years, gives us the solution so as not to go astray in pursuit of other gods, and one of them is the cognitive power of memory and calls to our attention that we can remember. In this portion on four occasions we read that we must remember: first, in 7:18 the Eternal’s miracles of salvation when we left Egypt; second, 8:2 our life journey, all the paths that we have had to live to become who we are today; third, 8:14 and 8:18 to remember the Eternal; and fourth, 9:7 to remember our past mistakes and innate nature to maintain our perspective in life.
I would like to stop at 8:2-3 “And you shall remember the entire way on which the LORD, your God, ledyou …. in order to afflict you, to test you, to know what is in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And He afflicted you and let you go hungry …… so that He would make you knowthat man does not live by bread alone, but rather by whatever comes forth from the mouth of the LORD does man live.” When I was reading these verses, the incident of Yeshua in the desert came to me when after fasting 40 days and 40 nights as we read in the Habesorah of Mattityahu chapter 4, Hasatan came to him through a physical need (food) to make the following proposal: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.”
When quickly reading this text, one might think that the objective was for Yeshua to perform a miracle of turning stones into bread, but what is behind it is something similar to what happened with Moshe, for which he could not enter the Promised Land. The Bore Olam told him to speak to the rock so that water would pour out, but Moshe, enraged by the people, hit the rock twice; although it is true that water did pour out, the glory of that favor from the Eternal was attributed to Moses according to what the Eternal had dictated in Bamidbar 20:12 “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: since you did not have faith in Me to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel”. Something similar happened here when Yeshua heard a voice that probably came from within him from the conditional factor: “if you are… then….” This is not about feeding his stomach, it is about feeding his ego, the SELF, to show who I AM and my natural abilities. This was to stop believing in the Eternal, to believe in oneself, and to attribute a foreign glory and make it one’s own. It is usurping and emptying the Divine Name, why? Because he told him: “speak – open your mouth, like God – to the stones that they become bread”. Hasatan was tempting Yeshua to use his mouth or emit a vibration to create something. So, what was Yeshua’s Yetzer Hara asking of him? Become a new god that day; that is the reason that Yeshua replied that Only the Bore Olam, the Creator of life is the Eternal, and cited Devarim. Yeshua had been tested to find out what was inside of him, and the answer is simple: It was Torah.
In the same way that we often wonder why we suffer on this earth, why there is hunger, social inequality, disease, disorder, affliction, etc. The answer we find in this portion is: First, humble ourselves, that is, keep our feet on the ground and recognize the good and the apparent bad that comes from Heaven; Second, rise up and realize the potential we have. I remember those teachers who were so demanding, but they were the ones who helped me discover the potential that I had within me. Third, discover who we are, and what is inside us. Fourth, put our knowledge into practice, man does not live by bread alone, but by the words of Adonai. Psalm 119:67 says: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I have become a guard over Your word.” And Tehillim 119:71 says, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees – chukkot ”. Finally, we read in 8:16 ” in order to afflict you and in order to test you, to benefit you in your end“. Rabbi Nachman of Breslev mentions this phrase a lot: Everything is for our good, even what is apparently bad. The Eternal sees from a higher perspective than we do, and our apparent difficulties are ultimately for our good.
I would like to close by making a parallel of a question in the Tanach, the first one we read in Devarim 10:12 -13: “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD, your God, ask of you? Only to fear the LORD, your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship the LORD, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes, which I command you this day, for your good”. Ve’atah Yisra’el mah Adonai Eloheeicha sho’el me’imach ki im-leyir’ah et-Adonai Eloheicha lalechet bechol-drachav ule’ahavah oto vela’avod et-Adonai Eloheicha bechol-levavchja uvechol-nafshecha. Lishmor et-mitzvot Adonai ve’et-chukotaiv asher anochi metsavecha hayom letov lach.
וְעַתָּה, יִשְׂרָאֵל–מָה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, שֹׁאֵל מֵעִמָּךְ: כִּי אִם-לְיִרְאָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בְּכָל-דְּרָכָיו, וּלְאַהֲבָה אֹתוֹ, וְלַעֲבֹד אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשֶׁךָ.
לִשְׁמֹר אֶת-מִצְוֺת יְהוָה, וְאֶת-חֻקֹּתָיו, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ, הַיּוֹם–לְטוֹב, לָךְ
We read this same questioning in Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O adam (man), what is good. And what does God require of you, but to do justly, and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”.
Higid lecha adam ma-tov uma-YHVH doresh mimcha ki im-ashoot mishpat veahavat chesed vehatsnea lechet im-Eloheicha.
הִגִּ֥יד לְךָ֛ אָדָ֖ם מַה־טּ֑וֹב וּמָה־יְהֹוָ֞ה דּוֹרֵ֣שׁ מִמְּךָ֗ כִּ֣י אִם־עֲשׂ֚וֹת מִשְׁפָּט֙ וְאַ֣הֲבַת חֶ֔סֶד וְהַצְנֵ֥עַ לֶ֖כֶת עִם־אֱלֹהֶֽיךָ:
Micah proposes how to expose a Yeshurun, making a call that the base of the SELF (the Ego) does not want Adonai; if we read from 6:6, it is as if a person approaches Adonai and presents offerings – from a lower value to values of higher rank; he begins with burnt offerings, then one-year-old calves (higher commercial value), then thousands of rams and rivers of oil (more value to buy the Eternal), and ends by offering a higher value for a human being, that human life, in this case, that of his firstborn, surpasses any commercial value. What we realize is that Micah does not prohibit the above or indicate that the Eternal should no longer be approached with offerings, but tells them that there is a higher value that is born out of our intentions, and responds to the question of Moshe in other words: First, return to the Torah; in the Torah, we find what is good, and it is where Devarim 10:12-13 fits in perfectly, which is to walk in his ways, to loveHim, to serve Him with the right intention and with the soul, to keep the mitzvot (commandments of a social nature, that is, towards our neighbor), to keep the chukkim (commandments that have no rational basis other than obedience). Second, to act in justice, that is, be honest and not be poor hearted (stingy) towards your neighbor. Third, put your faith into practice, your knowledge through mercy, Rachamin. Fourth, integrate your being, your soul and body, your mind and consciousness, your level of balance, to walk humbly (ekev with your feet on the ground) with your God.
Parashat Ekev, in conclusion, is a call to humility; to connect the heaven (what we breathe) with the earth (what we step on), our lowest part (the feet) with the highest (the head), laying the foundation for a Torah that is practical, full of gratitude despite the illusions, apparently good or bad, that we live daily so that in the end it will be for our good.
Shabbat Discussion on Ekev https://youtu.be/4h6yDSha_Kw