Parshat Ekeb

This week is the 2nd of the 7 Haftarot of consolation which will eventually lead us to Rosh Hashana. A reminder that Rambam Sephardi will begin reciting morning selihot from 2nd day Elul on Monday 5 September 2016.

Parshat Ekeb is the 3rd in the Book of Deuteronomy spanning chapters 7-11. It contains the mitzvah of Birkat HaMazon, the 2nd paragraph of Shema Yisrael and an answer to the existential question – what is the purpose of life.

Moshe continued to prepare Bnei Yisrael for the task of inheriting the Land of Canaan; reminding them of the journey of the past 40 years and whetting their appetite for its conclusion.

The opening section promises great blessings to those who follow the commandments. Their assets will increase and ­­­their land will become a great place to settle and live.

Comment: Parshat Ekeb challenges us to consider a wider role for the Jewish people among the nations of the world. The word Ekeb translats to mean ‘because.’ Interestingly the same usage is found in one other place in the Torah – when the Almighty promises Abraham at the time of the Akeidah that his descendants will be blessed to become a great multitude and will inherit the Land of Canaan.

In a similar parallel, the Prophet Micah – years after Moshe’s speech, proposes the same existential question ‘what does G-d ask of you?’ Except that Micah’s reply differs from Moshe’s demand in Parshat Ekeb. Moshe asked ‘now Israel, what does G-d require of you but to fear the Almighty, to walk in His ways, to love Him and to serve the Lord with all your heart and soul.’ (Deuteronomy 10:12).

Micah 6:8, on the other hand, stated ‘son of man, what does the Almighty seek from you except to be just, kind and walk humbly with your G-d.’ While the original question implies a national obligation for Bnei Yisrael to develop a relationship with G-d, the latter defines the duty of all humanity towards each other.

Add to this the verses warning against affluence and complacency (Deuteronomy 8:17), ‘beware not to grow arrogant towards the Almighty, claiming my power and the strength of my hand wrought this success’ and we find a strong message for our generation.

Moshe warned Bnei Yisrael not to become arrogant and conceited, thinking their success was due solely to their own initiative. But rather they needed to understand it was G-d who gave them the basic strength, sensibility and directed purpose to achieve their aims.

By thinking we’ve created our own success (Kohi VeOtsem Yadi), we denigrate and appear ungrateful to the Almighty. Beyond this, it strips us of the compassion we might otherwise feel for others less well off.

As we’ve seen recently, ignoring the needs of the disenfranchised risks not only us losing a sense of our shared humanity, but almost certainly leads to the kind of resentment and anger we see around us today in the US, the UK and other developed countries.

Going back to the time of Abraham, our mission was to bring an awareness of the Living G-d to those around us and to use our G-d-given strength to inspire all people to build a world of Justice & Kindness.