Parshat Ekev

Torah Reading for Week of August 18-24, 2019
“Love Cries Power”
By Rabbi Mindie Snyder, ’15
The views expressed in this drash are those of the author. We welcome Torah insights and teachings from all viewpoints, and encourage dialogue to strengthen the diversity of our academy.
 
Parshat Ekev reveals that if B’nai Yisrael adheres to Divine instruction for living good, fair, righteous lives, there is sacred insurance. They will receive God’s protection from the other nations dwelling nearby, who might otherwise want to harm them. Moses, approaching the end of his earthly days and hoping for better outcomes, continues to remind B’nai Yisrael of the features and benefits attached to living in harmony with God’s will. He provides a retrospective of the times when they missed the mark, so they can prevail in optimal ways. In addition, there are references to the potential of living in the Promised Land that is bountiful, enriched with “milk and honey”, if they fulfill the terms of their sacred contract with God.

 

For the land you are about to enter…, soaks up its water from the rains of heaven.
(11:10-11)

There is only one other caveat to succeeding with this plan. That has to do with addressing the people already living in the Promised Land. They are different. They worship idols. Sharing space would be a problem. Therefore, dwelling in the Promised Land could not be achieved without consequences of displacing others. A controversy emerges when “love” is not mentioned once, but several times. What does a deeper, higher, transcendent type of love look like, in the face of real challenges? This powerful idea of reciprocal love, between God and people, doesn’t seem to align with forcibly removing someone because they are in the path of perceived progress.

 

It’s not the waking, it’s the rising…
Andrew Hozier-Byrne
“Nina Cried Power” (2018)

Prejudices against Jews have evolved over time. (So…nu?) One of the most virulent strains involves the devaluation and diminishment of the Jewish tradition. While many cultures see “love” as an aspirational ideal, with Judaism among them, the myth persists that Judaism is a religion infused with cold laws, devoid of love. We know this is not true. However, many of us are in the position of defending the House of Judaism against these and other misinterpretations. Parshat Ekev provides source material to help in this regard:

  1. … if (ekev) you pay attention to these laws and follow them, the Lord your God will keep His Covenant of Love (et ha brit, v’et ha chesed) with you, as He promised your ancestors… ( 7:12)
  2. …He will love you and bless you and increase you numbers…(7:13)
  3. … to love and to serve your God with all your heart and soul…(10:12)
  4. … Yet, it was to your ancestors, that God was drawn out of love for them…(10:15)
  5. … If, then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving your God…(11:13)
  6. … If you faithfully keep all this Instruction, that I command you, loving your God…(11:22)

 

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks noted that love and justice go “hand in hand” according                   to Judaism’s social, moral, political constructs. In this final book of Torah, he observes that Tzedek (justice) is mentioned 18 times, more than in any of the other four books. Furthermore, Rabbi Sacks explains that love, without justice attached to it, can lead to hate.
Brussels, Charlottesville, Christ Church, Dayton, El Paso, Las Vegas, London, Newtown, Orlando, Paris, Pittsburgh, San Diego… A full list of places, or chronological order of horrific current events, is not required to acknowledge the gravity of relentless hate crimes perpetrated by human beings, in our own country and around the world. Over and over, we ask, “Where is the love?”, as the compassionate and wounded among us search for calm and comfort. Our Jewish tradition teaches us to learn from our complex and problematic texts, using timeless examples of what to do, along with what not to do, to inform our behavior: to do what is right and good. We need to remember that the Promised Land is everywhere, every day we arise and keep our promises to God and each other.
May all beings, near and far, be safe and protected and free from inner and outer harm. 
May all beings, near and far, be happy and contented. 
May all beings, near and far, be healthy and whole to whatever degree possible.
May all beings, near and far, experience ease of well-being.
Jon Kabat-Zinn
Loving-Kindness Meditation (2018)

This Shabbat, may we experience our Jewish tradition, empowered by all the varieties of practices among us, illuminated by love, balanced by justice, as intended by our Creator.

 

Warmest Shabbat blessings across the miles.