Blog Ekev 23 Av 5778 בלוג עֵקֶב, כ”ג אב תשע”ח
In Parashat Ekev, Moshe is reminding the Israelites about the intensive training that they had received during their 40 years in the desert. Through these stories, the desire of our Creator is to teach us principles by which we can live our lives. Most people believe that the first time we had heard the Ten Commandments was at Har Sinai however man is not an after-thought of the Creator. We read in Bereshit, Genesis that we humans were made in His likeness and image and that He breathed His Divine Spark into each of us. It is very important for us to realize that at that very moment, we were given an inherent sense of morality; the Ten Commandments were placed into our consciousness. Man was born “morally upright”, contrary to those religions that teach that we were born sinful. Through time and choice, man moves on a downward spiral toward immorality.
Our sages agree that one of the major roles of a mashiach (messiah) would be to bring people back to Torah. At Mount Sinai, the Creator used Moshe to remind the people that they needed to return to His Commandments. Moshe was such a messiah. He was letting the people know that their 40 years in the desert was not in vain; it was to prepare them for their role. They would have to face many difficult circumstances and they would need to be obedient. In Devarim 7:6, He is reminding them that they were chosen but in verse 7 He said … “not because you were the most numerous of all peoples — for indeed you were the smallest of all.” And in 9:6 He said “Be clear about this: the LORD is not giving you possession of this fine land because of any right conduct on your part, for you are an obstinate (stiff-necked) people. The only reason that we are chosen is because He decided to do so; there is no merit within us.
There is however, one condition to being chosen, whether a person is a natural born citizen of the land or a ger toshav (a stranger among us) – we need to be obedient to the Creator. There are many who think that they part of Israel, but they are not and there are those who do not think that they are part of Israel, but they are. It is a calling that the Creator places in our hearts. I have been teaching how we need to free ourselves from the constraints that religion imposes upon us and to concentrate upon having a relationship with the Creator. Religions make us believe that we are chosen by our merits.
In Chapter 10:16 Moshe asks us to circumcise our hearts, which again has been misinterpreted by religious leaders. When a person has their cataracts removed by surgery, the fog that was clouding their sight is removed and they can see clearly again. The heart in Hebrew represents intellect, intention, thought, motivation. When it is clouded over, we tend to make poor decisions and need clarity in order to do what is right. The Creator wants us to be partners in a relationship with Him which is why He gave us free will to the point of even allowing us to deny His very existence. Yet, He is always there giving us the opportunity to return to Him. The Creator measures our intentions. We may be able to deceive others, even ourselves but we cannot deceive Him. He knows us better than we know ourselves.
The principal message of this parashah is that when we “dig in our heels” (ekev), i.e. we hold onto the principles (the Ten Commandments) of the Creator, we will have a good life but if we deviate, we will suffer the consequences. The Torah tells us that wealth, health and influence can be ours when we are faithful to the Creator. However, they are not for our personal use but to bless others. Wealth does not necessarily bring us blessing or happiness; what brings deep inner contentment is our relationship with Him.
This parashah mentioned Pharaoh because we are to think about what happened to him. Pharaoh began by listening to Moshe when he sent his own magicians to compete but as time went on he grew cold and the Bore Olam allowed his heart to become hardened. He went from immorality to amorality where he could no longer differentiate right from wrong. Our society is turning in this direction. Israel is still an example of good to the world in spite of falling short of many moral standards. They treat their enemies with kindness and benevolence, but the media reports only the opposite. Israel has become part of the bread-basket for the world and has given the world more inventions and medical advances than any other country. The Creator is blessing Israel as He promised but is Israel blessing the Creator? Right now, the tide is turning because Israel is trying to be like the world, contrary to the warnings of Moshe Rabeinu. The Creator is the one who protects us when we are obedient however history has shown us that when we disobey He lifts off His covering hand of protection. We saw this with the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D, the Inquisition and the Holocaust, to name a few. May we as a people, turn quickly back, do teshuva and heed Moshe’s warnings.
On a more personal note, you and I are special, chosen people who need to always put the Creator first “in every area of our lives”. As our Rabbi Yeshua reminded us – we are to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, our soul and our resources. If we do not love Him first, we will not be capable of loving ourselves and we certainly cannot love our neighbor. If we do not put Him first in every area of our lives, we will live in fear, unhappiness and suffer poor health. When we are called by Him, He holds us to a higher standard and our choices become more difficult. Are you accepting your role of being special? Are you making the right choices?