What More Do You Need

Eikev is this week’s Torah portion; the word has too many meanings for me to really understand or expound on. Suffice it to say that it can mean “heed”, “hear”, “follow” and “heel”, among other things. The portion is always named for the first word so Eikev it is.

Moses, who will never enter the promised land with his people, reminds them of the covenant, the b’rit, that G-d made with them. But he also reminds them that they must be observant and follow the “rules” faithfully for G-d to maintain that covenant. He proceeds to remind them of their bad behavior, of their “trespasses against G-d”. He reminds them that although they will inherit the promised land from the idolatrous, they are far from virtuous.

This portion tells us that the promised land, Israel, will be a “land of milk and honey” if and only if the people obey the commandments and teach them to their children. What a metaphor for our time. If we were to obey the commandments, those basic social rules, we would be in a world at peace.

You have heard the idea that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten. You didn’t learn the basics to build a rocket, or a building, splice a gene or write computer code. You did, however, learn the basic rules of how to live in the world, how to treat other people, how to share and how to care. You learned to be nice, to be polite, to stand up for those less fortunate, to tell the truth, not to take or destroy other people’s things, not to cheat, to respect differences and to respect proper authority. As an aside you also learn to “tell on” improper authority figures. All of these values, if we were to actually translate them to adult behavior would make the world a much better place.

We do teach these values to our children, or at least many of us at home, and many of our schools and houses of worship do. But somewhere along the line we seem to forget these values and instead of what we learned as children persisting, we start learning from others, adults, who have also forgotten those values. We have stopped thinking for ourselves. We have stopped standing up for the less fortunate. We have forgotten how to look past our differences. We accept cheating. We have forgotten how to share.

So you may not have learned all you need to know in kindergarten, you definitely learned what you need to know about human interaction. But you have forgotten it. According to the Torah, G-d gave Moses the basics and instructed us to… Click To Tweet

So you may not have learned all you need to know in kindergarten, but you definitely learned what you need to know about human interaction. I think in the main we have forgotten it. According to the Torah, G-d gave Moses the basics and instructed us to follow them faithfully. And the promise is that if we ever manage to do that we might globally take a turn for the better.

Shabbat Shalom

A Land of Milk & Forgiveness

This week’s Torah portion, Eikev, is most wonderful.  You could say that about most but some are hard to deconstruct or find happiness in.  This one is easy.  Moses continues to tell the people what they will find when they enter the land of Israel, the promised land.  Something he will never do.

So even as he describes this beautiful land flowing with milk and honey, he reminds the people of their shortcomings and failures.  What I take from this is a truly resonant lesson, to remember your failings and mistakes, they are part of who you are, but not to live in them.  The people, even as they they are scolded for their shortcomings are about to go forward to something new and wonderful.  And best of all, we are told, G-d forgives them.

Forgiveness is a powerful force.  More so for the forgiver than for the forgiven. In this case, however, the forgiven are freed for the way forward to a new life.   In life I have found that forgiving has everything to do with moving forward. When you live in bitterness, regret, anger it affects only you, not whoever is the “target” of those feelings unless of course it is yourself. Moving past those feelings is possible only with acceptance of the reality of your, or their, failings and with forgiveness.

It is also interesting that this portion of forgiveness and moving forward also includes the second, virtually unknown, part of the shema, the central prayer of Judaism. The “chapter” reminds us of the power of prayer.  And so this portion as a whole exhorts us to two of the most powerful forces we can bring into our lives, forgiveness and prayer. Imagine the beautiful and peaceful way forward impelled by those forces, if only we can internalize them.

Shabbat Shalom.