Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Torah Connection - Eikev

Parshat Eikev features the second blessing after the Shema:

Deuteronomy 11:13-21:
יג  וְהָיָה, אִם-שָׁמֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ אֶל-מִצְו‍ֹתַי, אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוֶּה אֶתְכֶם, הַיּוֹם--לְאַהֲבָה אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, וּלְעָבְדוֹ, בְּכָל-לְבַבְכֶם, וּבְכָל-נַפְשְׁכֶם.13 And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto My commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul,
יד  וְנָתַתִּי מְטַר-אַרְצְכֶם בְּעִתּוֹ, יוֹרֶה וּמַלְקוֹשׁ; וְאָסַפְתָּ דְגָנֶךָ, וְתִירֹשְׁךָ וְיִצְהָרֶךָ.14 that I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.
טו  וְנָתַתִּי עֵשֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ, לִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ; וְאָכַלְתָּ, וְשָׂבָעְתָּ.15 And I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and thou shalt eat and be satisfied.
טז  הִשָּׁמְרוּ לָכֶם, פֶּן יִפְתֶּה לְבַבְכֶם; וְסַרְתֶּם, וַעֲבַדְתֶּם אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים, וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתֶם, לָהֶם.16 Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
יז  וְחָרָה אַף-יְהוָה בָּכֶם, וְעָצַר אֶת-הַשָּׁמַיִם וְלֹא-יִהְיֶה מָטָר, וְהָאֲדָמָה, לֹא תִתֵּן אֶת-יְבוּלָהּ; וַאֲבַדְתֶּם מְהֵרָה, מֵעַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה, נֹתֵן לָכֶם.17 and the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and He shut up the heaven, so that there shall be no rain, and the ground shall not yield her fruit; and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.
יח  וְשַׂמְתֶּם אֶת-דְּבָרַי אֵלֶּה, עַל-לְבַבְכֶם וְעַל-נַפְשְׁכֶם; וּקְשַׁרְתֶּם אֹתָם לְאוֹת עַל-יֶדְכֶם, וְהָיוּ לְטוֹטָפֹת בֵּין עֵינֵיכֶם.18 Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart and in your soul; and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
יט  וְלִמַּדְתֶּם אֹתָם אֶת-בְּנֵיכֶם, לְדַבֵּר בָּם, בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶּרֶךְ, וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ.19 And ye shall teach them your children, talking of them, when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
כ  וּכְתַבְתָּם עַל-מְזוּזוֹת בֵּיתֶךָ, וּבִשְׁעָרֶיךָ.20 And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates;
כא  לְמַעַן יִרְבּוּ יְמֵיכֶם, וִימֵי בְנֵיכֶם, עַל הָאֲדָמָה, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע יְהוָה לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם לָתֵת לָהֶם--כִּימֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם, עַל-הָאָרֶץ. 21 that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, upon the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers to give them, as the days of the heavens above the earth. 

The idea of rewards and punishments vis-a-vis observance of the commandments is the theme of this reading. I'd like to focus on two pairs of verses, which seem to be in counterpoint to each other. In Deuteronomy 7:17-18, we read:

יז  כִּי תֹאמַר בִּלְבָבְךָ, רַבִּים הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵלֶּה מִמֶּנִּי; אֵיכָה אוּכַל, לְהוֹרִישָׁם.17 If thou shalt say in thy heart: 'These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?'
יח  לֹא תִירָא, מֵהֶם:  זָכֹר תִּזְכֹּר, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, לְפַרְעֹה, וּלְכָל-מִצְרָיִם.18 thou shalt not be afraid of them; thou shalt well remember what the LORD thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt:

Then, in Deuteronomy 8:17-18:

יז  וְאָמַרְתָּ, בִּלְבָבֶךָ:  כֹּחִי וְעֹצֶם יָדִי, עָשָׂה לִי אֶת-הַחַיִל הַזֶּה.17 and thou say in thy heart: 'My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth.'
יח  וְזָכַרְתָּ, אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ--כִּי הוּא הַנֹּתֵן לְךָ כֹּחַ,לַעֲשׂוֹת      חָיִל:  לְמַעַן הָקִים אֶת-בְּרִיתוֹ אֲשֶׁר-נִשְׁבַּע לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ, כַּיּוֹם הַזֶּה.  18 But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God, for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore unto thy fathers, as it is this day. 

Both excerpts -- with the same verse numbers, ending on 18 (the number of Life) -- concern themselves with that which we "say in our heart".  While most commandments refer to actions, here we look at our intentions and our innermost thoughts.

In fact, the two excerpts look at the two extremes of self-talk.  In the first instance, we see despair, low self-esteem, and a sense of impotence:  "My challenges are too great, I cannot overcome them." In the second, we see arrogance and hubris: "My success is all due to my own excellence!"  Both of these are extremely common human reactions in the face of struggles and victories.

And what is Moses' response to both attitudes? "Remember the Lord your G*d."  -- keep things in perspective, it's not all about you.  There is a slight difference in emphasis, though.  When we are feeling down on ourselves, we are directed to recall past victories. Just as G*d got us through the enslavement in Egypt (and many, many other trials and tribulations), so we can expect that He will see us through whatever we are facing, as long as we do so in accordance with the commandments.   Perspsective.  When we are feeling full of ourselves, on the other hand, we are reminded that it is not all about us. Not only do we owe our strengths and opportunities to G*d, but we are indebted to "our fathers" -- those who came before us and made it possible for us to accomplish great things.  It is still our success, but it does not exist in a vacuum.  Perspective.

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