Deuteronomy 7.12 – 11.25 Haftarah: Isaiah 49:14-51:3

Rabbi SchellParashat Ekev continues the speeches of Moses to the Israelites. He tells them, if they maintain their covenant with God by observing all the commandments, God will make them fruitful and victorious over their enemies. Reminding them of their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, Moses tells them: “God subjected you to the hardship of hunger … then gave your manna … in order to teach you that human beings do not live on bread alone.“ He then wants them that after settling in the land and enjoying its fruits, they should not arrogantly assume: “My own power and the might of my own hand have one this wealth for me.” Nor, continues Moses, should they conclude that it is for their virtue that God allows them to defeat their enemies and conquered their land. Rather, it is punishment of the inhabitants for idolatry, and it is god’s fulfilment of the covenant made with Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

Moses raises important ethical considerations in this speech. Recalling the difficult years of wandering through the desert, he tells them that God has tested them with hunger, long days of hot sun, and long cold nights. The years were filled with harsh trials. Moses, however, does not focus only on the past. He worries about the future. He foresees a time when the Israelites will be comfortable, prosperous, and secure in the land.  They will have defeated their enemies and will be enjoying flourishing economy.  He wonders what the state of being spiritual health will be in such a future time of victory and abundance.

Modern commentator Nachama Leibowitz points out that Moses’ observations focus on the tendency of human arrogance and the resulting danger in forgetting human reliance upon God.  In blindness, she writes, human beings tend to detect the guiding hand of God only when it is visible in miracles.  They fail to see the hidden miracles performed for them continually, even when the world around them … seems to be going on as usual.  Moses’s words are against such blindness.

Nearly all the commentators of Moses words see in them a significant lesson. They single out arrogance and pride is dangers that lead to moral insensitivity, corruption, and the denial of God.

Moses is suggesting that the anti-dot for arrogance is both gratitude and the power of recollection.  Rabbis have extended his view, concluding that the appreciation of history puts all human accomplishments into perspective. It roots us in gratitude and a sense of obligation for the gifts of God.

                                                               – Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Harvey Fields, Torah commentary)

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