As Moshe continued his farewell speech, he was reminding the people that if they fulfilled the Commandments, they would live a good life in the Promised Land, but he also reminded them about the times they had worshipped the golden calf, the rebellion of Korach, the sin of the spies and other incidents when the people disobeyed the Eternal and showed a lack of trust in Him, resulting in pain and tragedy. “You have been rebellious against God”, he told them, but he also spoke to them about forgiveness. Moshe told them that the land of Canaan was a fertile land that bore good fruit, but he warned them that when they got there, to not be arrogant, but rather to acknowledge God’s intervention in every situation and to be grateful. In our lives, we tend to ask for help when we are going through tough times, but once our difficulties are over, we tend to forget those who helped us through. We must take the time to look back and be grateful for the help that we received during those times.
Devarim 8:2 says that He led them along the way: “… to afflict you, to test you, to know what was in your heart …”. The people of Israel had to struggle to enter the Promised Land. Verse 3 says: “… and to let you know that man does not live by bread alone …” That is the key from God to man on how to obtain peace, harmony, and tranquility in this life. It’s vital that we know that our sustenance does not depend on us but upon the Creator of the Universe.
During her stay in the desert, Israel faced the most difficult test that man can experience in his life – i.e., to learn to trust the Creator. God provided them with a type of food, that had incredible beneficial properties like no other food, and which could not be found anywhere else. Our sages say that its flavor depended upon the thought of whoever ingested it…truly miraculous. However, one disadvantage was that it could not be kept overnight. Moses told the Israelites that these forty years in the desert, during which God sustained them with manna from Heaven, was to teach them that “man shall not live on bread alone”. Israel was to trust that just as the manna had fallen that day as expected, it would undoubtedly fall the next day. In the same way that it’s not possible to understand how manna could sustain the people of Israel all that time, we must recognize that we cannot understand how our own efforts can provide for our daily sustenance because everything is a miracle. That is the “secret” of the peace and safety that we all seek. Certainly, we must take care of our maintenance, but our main priority must be to attach ourselves to the Creator of All, the Master of the Universe and leave the worry of our sustenance in His hands.
In verse 10 of the same chapter, we find the Birkat Hamazon: the blessing to the Creator after having eaten. In verses 12 to 17 of this same chapter, we read: “… Lest when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and inhabit them … then you say in your heart: my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.” Psalm 127: 1 says: “If the LORD does not build the house, those who build it labor in vain; if the LORD does not take care of the city, the guard is watching in vain.”
How often have we said, “We did this or that” or “I have built and built what I own”? “This is what I have built with my effort.” According to some sages, this is the first step towards idolatry. Our “I”, our ego becomes so proud that we believe that everything we have comes from our strength. When our “I” is too grandiose, we lose the connection with the Bore Olam.
“And you will remember the Eternal your God, for He is the One Who gives you the strength to get wealth…” (Devarim 8:18). Here is what we must do daily …remember the favor that God pours out for us. Every morning when we wake up, we can open our eyes; every moment in which we feel strong, vital, with every breath we take, always keep in mind the favor that the Almighty freely gives us each day. Always be aware that each of us benefits from what God does daily in our lives and how He is always protecting us. The psalmist said very rightly: “Bless the LORD oh my soul and do not forget any of his benefits. He is the One who crowns us with favor and mercies …Psalm 103″
Man’s physical needs are not limited to having bread to eat, a roof to protect himself, and a bed to sleep at night. People also need to feel comfortable and safe, so that material concerns do not occupy too of their thoughts. Our wealth, be it much or little, is whatever we possess, be it money, house, furniture, etc., and whatever exceeds our basic needs. Our use of that wealth speaks of our connection with God. Rabbi Yeshua said, “where your treasure is, that is where your heart is.”
For this reason, Moses gave the people a description of the Promised Land. Remembering that the Land of Israel was a land flowing with milk and honey, full of fertile places and luscious fruit, should provide the people with enough awareness to thank the Creator for such great blessings. If the material goods that we receive do not allow us to see that God is behind them all, they do not fulfill their purpose, which is to get closer to the Creator for everything that exists and sustains and protects us. God’s provision extends to his continuous relationship with all His creation, which is deeply dependent on him as is written in Psalm 104: 21”, The young lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.” We do not often take the time to value the rain that falls, the sun that rises each morning, the refreshing winds that blow, and the tides that wash up on our shores and invigorate life in our vast oceans. All these things are watched over by our beloved God in His provision for us.
The word “Ekev” which is the name of our parashah among other things means “heel”. The heel of the foot is our connection with the Earth, depicting the connection that exists between the terrestrial (material) and the heavenly. Material things should help us grow on this physical plane but also spiritually, maturing us through our personal aptitude to enjoy our variety of riches. The heel which is the lowest part of our body speaks of the involvement of all parts of the body in this work, from head to toe. It is also the part of the body that is related to walking, demonstrating how the fulfillment of the Commandments marks our walk throughout this life; for that, they were given to us by the Creator, blessed be He.
To sum up, from this parashah we can learn, among many other things, that we should be grateful not only to God but to all those who are close to us and bless us with their service, their gifts of their selfless love. Under any circumstance of life, it is always good to say thank you.
Gratitude must be present every day of our existence because it is God who offers us everything that we have by His mercy. He offers us His rich blessings every day, but we are so busy that we do always not realize it. We should be grateful to God not only in good times but also in bad. Thankful to God not just from time to time, but each and every day.
May the Creator open our eyes and our conscience to understand that He is our provider, that He loves us and watches over us every moment of our lives; and let us be grateful for the many blessings received.