Friday, August 03, 2007

Parsha EKEV

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Rabino Berel Wein

Even though Moshe in his review of the life of the Jewish people in thedesert of Sinai over the past forty years recounts all of the miraclesthat occurred, he does so not for the purpose of narrative but rather toteach an important moral lesson for all ages. That stark lesson is thatafter all of the miracles that God may perform on our behalf, our fate isin great measure in our hands. And the lesson of all of Jewish history issummed up in the verse “For not by bread alone – even miraculous breadsuch as the manna – shall humans live, but rather by the word of God, soto speak, - the values, commandments and strictures of Torah shall Jewslive.”
All attempts to avoid this lesson, to substitute other words, ideas andideologies for the words of Torah have turned into dismal failures. Butreliance upon miracles is just as dangerous a path. My teachers in theyeshiva would say to us, then pious young men, that prayer helps one tobecome a scholar in Torah. But they emphasized that sitting and studyingTorah for a protracted time with concentration and effort may help evenmore in the quest for true Torah scholarship. Moshe uses the constantmiracles of the desert to drive home the point that much of theresponsibilities of life are in our hands and our decision makingprocesses. In essence the clear conclusion from his oration is that Godhelps those who help themselves.

In our post –Tisha B’Av mood and run-up to Elul and the High Holy Days itis important to remember how much of our fate truly lies in our ownactions. The small choices that we make in our everyday lives add up toour life’s achievements and accomplishments. That is what Rashi means whenhe states that “these are the commandments that one grinds under withone’s heel – ekev!” The small things that we think to be unimportant atthe moment often translate into major decisions and sometimes even haveirreversible consequences. The question always before us is do our actionsmeasure up to the standards of God’s word, so to speak. We live not “bybread alone” or by miracles alone, but by our own choices and our very ownbehavior and deeds.
While recently driving on a New York City highway – an exercise inpatience and utter futility – I missed the exit that I was supposed toturn off on. Miles and a quarter of an hour later I was able somehow toretrace my journey and exit at the proper place. I felt that it was amiracle that I was able to do so. It was, in fact, my negligence of notexiting correctly from the highway originally that forced the necessity ofof this “miracle.” Moshe teaches us that this is truly a daily occurrencein our lives. His message to us is as clear and cogent today as it was toour forbearers in the desert of Sinai long ago.

Shabat shalom.