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Parshat Pekudei (10/03/10)  Machon MeirMachon Meir  ENGLISH  :MeirTV English

Rabbi Netanel Frankenthal


For over 35 years, Machon Meir has become known throughout Israel as the place to get a deeper understanding what it truly means to be a member of the Jewish people. It has also become the landing point for many new immigrants from all over the world because of the institute’s encouragement of living in the Land of Israel. Machon Meir has also created a strategy to distribute Torah worldwide through their media channel, Arutz Meir. Since it began, Arutz Meir has debuted a range of television series and archived over 25,000 classes which are constantly being updated and viewed daily throughout the world in 5 different languages. With a variety of topics and discussions led by renowned Jewish scholars, our viewers will surely find a class that will create sparks of inspiration. Whether you are looking to connect to your Jewish heritage or you are simply seeking out answers, we exist to imbue the words of Torah and engage our viewers with real and meaningful

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Rabbi Yona Levin


“За чашкой чая”
Беседа в тёплой, неформальной обстановке о том,
как современный интеллигентный слушатель воспринимает нашу традицию.
В передаче мы попробуем получить ответы на непростые вопросы,
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Присоединяйтесь, приходите к нам на чашечку чая.
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CHASSIDIC DIMENSION: Seeing and Hearing – The First and Second Sections of the Shema (Eikev)

Menachem Av 18, 5774 · August 14, 2014
Eikev
Seeing and Hearing — The First and Second Sections of the Shema

The Torah portion of Eikev contains the second section of the Shema ,1 which has many striking similarities to the first section, found in the preceding portion ofVaes’chanan.2

Nevertheless, differences exist between the two sections. The first commands us to love G-d with “all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might,” while the second exhorts us only to love Him with “all your heart and with all your soul,” omitting “all your might.”

Additionally, in Vaes’chanan, the commandment to study Torah (“You shall teach it to your children…”) precedes the commandment to wear tefillin — to which all other commandments are likened3 — while in Eikev, the mitzvah of tefillin precedes the commandment to study Torah.

Yet another difference: The first section makes no mention of any reward for the performance of mitzvos, while the second one does.

We must understand the reason for these differences.

Actually, all the above-mentioned differences stem from something alluded to in the names of the respective Torah portions:

The general content of Vaes’chanan refers to matnas chinam — a free gift from above.

The portion of Eikev — which literally means “heel,” the lowest (i.e. least alive) part of the human body — speaks of a situation in which no G-dly illumination is drawn down from above. Nevertheless, even in this situation, Jews perform Torah and mitzvos.

This also explains why Moshe’s request in Vaes’chanan was that he be allowed to enter and view Eretz Yisrael, while the expression at the beginning of Eikev refers to hearing (“because you have heard”). For spiritual sight4 results from an intense illumination from above, while spiritual hearing involves no such illumination.

Hearing, however, possesses a quality that sight lacks: sound actually enters a person and becomes a part of him, while what a person sees remains external to himself; he views it “from afar,” as it were.5

Just as this is so regarding physical sight and sound, so too with regard to “seeing” in the portion Vaes’chanan and “hearing” in Eikev : Although spiritual “hearing” is lower than the “seeing” requested by Moshe, nevertheless, since it is accomplished through man’s service (unlike “seeing,” which comes as a free gift from above), it can permeate an individual in a more profound manner.

The differences between the two sections of the Shema can be understood accordingly: When there is illumination from above, as in the section related inVaes’chanan , a person is able to exceed the usual limitations and act “with all your might.” However, when speaking of what man can achieve strictly on his own — the level of the second section of Shema — then spiritual service is limited to what can be accomplished by “all your heart and all your soul.”

And, since the Torah reflects G-dliness as it descends — without change — from above, this being the general content of the first section of Shema , there Torah precedes mitzvos. Mitzvos , on the other hand, emphasize man’s service, the theme of the second section of Shema. The second section therefore has mitzvos preceding Torah.

So too regarding the need to describe the reward for performing mitzvos : only on the lower level of Eikev is it necessary to emphasize the reward; at the level ofVaes’chanan, a person performs mitzvos for his own sake.

Nevertheless, the merit of the Shema as related in Eikev remains, for as mentioned above, there is great value in the seemingly lower service of “hearing.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, pp. 79-84

Mezuzah — The Perfect Reminder

The Torah portion of Eikev contains the commandment of mezuzah — “and you shall inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”6

Concerning the mitzvah of mezuzah, the Rambam writes:7 “It is obligatory to be scrupulous with regard to mezuzah … whenever he enters or leaves [his house], he will encounter the unity of His Name… He will be reminded of his love for Him and will be roused from his sleep and the errors of indulging in mundane delights. He will then know that only knowledge of G-d is eternal; he will immediately come to his senses and follow the paths of righteousness.”

We must understand why the Rambam states “It is obligatory to be scrupulous with regard to mezuzah ” rather than using the seemingly more appropriate phrase “It is obligatory to be scrupulous with regard to the mitzvah of mezuzah ,” similar to his statement:8 “It is obligatory to be scrupulous with regard to the mitzvah of tzitzis.”

At first glance, it would seem that the Rambam’ s reason for writing “It is obligatory to be scrupulous with regard to mezuzah ,” rather than “the mitzvah of mezuzah ,” is that the mounting of mezuzah is not an obligatory mitzvah — one need not select a dwelling that is obligated to have a mezuzah so as to be able to fulfill this commandment.9

However, if this were the reason, then the phrase “it is obligatory” would seem to be out of place; the Rambam should have used the expression “One should make an effort” or the like.

It therefore seems that the Rambam is indeed referring to the mitzvah of mezuzah. This being so, why does he not state explicitly “It is obligatory to be scrupulous with regard to the mitzvah of mezuzah ”?

When the Rambam says it is obligatory to be scrupulous, he is not referring to the degree of observance, but rather is making it clear that one must be scrupulous in seeing to it that the mitzvah of mezuzah has an appropriate effect. This is why he goes on to say: “Whenever he enters or leaves [his house], he will encounter the unity of His Name … He will be reminded of his love for Him and will be roused from his sleep and the errors of indulging in mundane delights. He will then know that only knowledge of G-d is eternal; he will immediately come to his senses and follow the paths of righteousness.”

This aspect of mezuzah is not a part of the performance of the mitzvah , for that is accomplished by merely affixing the mezuzah to the doorpost and keeping it there.10

Thus, the Rambam is describing the impact that the mezuzah is to have — the dwelling’s inhabitant should be scrupulous in seeing to it that whenever he encounters the mezuzah, “he will be reminded of his love for Him and will be roused from his sleep… and follow the paths of righteousness.”

This sheds light on another statement of the Rambam. The Rambam concludes the laws of mezuzah with the statement: “The early Sages have said:11 ‘Whoever hastefillin on his head and hand, tzitzis on his garment and a mezuzah on his entrance is assured that he will not sin, for he has many reminders… that save him from sin.’ ”

The Rambam quotes this statement only in the laws of mezuzah, and not earlier in the laws of tefillin , or later in the laws of tzitzis.

According to the above explanation, however, this seeming omission is entirely understandable, for it is the mezuzah as an object — as opposed to tefillin and tzitzis— that serves as a reminder.

As explained earlier by the Rambam ,12 it is the overall sanctity of tefillin that keeps a person from sin. With regard to tzitzis as well, the Rambam explains13 that it is thecommandment of tzitzis — inasmuch as it acts as a reminder of all the commandments — that keeps a person from sin.

It is only with regard to mezuzah , possessing as it does “the unity of His Name,” that the object itself keeps one from sinning by serving as a perfect reminder.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIX, pp. 61-66

GARDEN OF TORAH: When the Heel Becomes a Head (Eikev)

Menachem Av 18, 5774 · August 14, 2014
When the Heel Becomes a Head
Eikev

Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IX, p. 71ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5749, p. 641ff

Nothing Comes Unearned

One of the fundamental principles of Chassidic thought is that all revelations of G-dliness are dependent on man’s Divine service. Even revelations which transcend our mortal grasp must be drawn down through our own efforts.

The above also applies to the revelations of the Era of the Redemption. In that era, it will be seen that our world is G-d’s dwelling. And just as a person reveals his true self at home, so too, at that time, G-d’s true self, as it were the essential aspects of His Being will be perceived in this material world.

These revelations will not, however, come about merely as an expression of Divine favor. Instead, they will have been ushered in by our deeds and our Divine service during the era of exile.1 And more particularly, it is the response to the challenges that arise during the era of ikvesa diMeshicha the current age, when Mashiach’sapproaching footsteps can be heard which will precipitate Mashiach’s coming.2

Responding to G-dliness

An intellectually honest person is, however, prompted to ask: How can our Divine service bring Mashiach ? Mankind was on a higher spiritual level in previous generations, and seemingly displayed a greater commitment to Divine service. How can our efforts accomplish a purpose that theirs failed to achieve?3

These questions can be resolved by contrasting our Divine service during the era of exile with that carried out at the time of the Beis HaMikdash. In our prayers,4 we say “we are unable to go up, and to appear and bow down before You.” When a person came to the Beis HaMikdash and appeared before G-d, he had a direct appreciation of G-dliness.5 And as a spontaneous reaction, he prostrated himself. This was not merely a superficial act. On the contrary, experiencing G-dliness directly spurred complete homage, motivating men to willingly forgo all personal concerns and subordinate every aspect of their being to G-d.

During the era of exile, by contrast, G-dliness is not apparent, and our commitment is not triggered by external factors. Instead, it must come as a result of our own initiative.

When G-dliness shines openly, the revelation draws a person to Divine service, and causes him to feel satisfaction in this endeavor. When, by contrast, G-dliness is not overtly revealed, commitment to the Torah and its mitzvos requires more self-sacrifice.

A Point in Soul Above “I”

When focusing on the extent of commitment how much of a person’s character is given over to Divine service there is no question that the Jews who lived during the time of the Beis HaMikdash possessed an advantage. G-dliness permeated every aspect of their being.

Nevertheless, the very fact that this commitment absorbed their minds and their feelings indicates that it left room for a sense of self. Their Divine service had an “I,” albeit an “I” of holiness.

In the time of exile, by contrast, a person’s Divine service occupies less of his conscious thought, and there is less external motivation. For us today, making a commitment to Divine service, and abiding by it, reflects the workings of an inner potential that transcends the conscious self. A modern believer must go beyond all concepts of a personal “I”. It is not his thoughts or his feelings, but rather his true self, the aspect of his being which is totally identified with G-dliness, which motivates this expression of his conduct.

This reflects a deeper dimension of soul and a deeper commitment to G-d than was revealed during the time of the Beis HaMikdash.

A Channel for the Soul’s Power

These concepts are related to this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Eikev. Eikev literally means “heel,” and refers to ikvesa diMeshicha,6 the time when Mashiach’sapproaching footsteps can be heard. Moreover, the connection between this era and “heels” runs deeper. The human body is used as a metaphor7 to describe the Jewish nation as it has existed over the ages. In that context, our present generation can be compared to the heel the least sensitive limb in the body for we lack the intellectual and emotional sophistication of our forebears.

Indeed, our Sages8 refer to the heel as “the Angel of Death within man.” Nevertheless, we find that the heel possesses an advantage over the other limbs. It is the part of the body that yields most easily to the will. For example, it is easier to put one’s heel into very hot or very cold water than to immerse any other limb.

One might say that this advantage is a result of the heel’s lack of sensitivity. Because the heel is furthest removed from the influence of the heart and mind, it offers less resistance to orders which run contrary to one’s thoughts and feelings.

Chassidus9 explains, however, that there is a deeper dimension to the heel’s responsiveness. The heel is uniquely structured to express the power of the will. Our wills are channels for the expression of our souls, and of all the limbs in the body, it is the heel which displays the most active obedience to this potential.

Our minds and hearts are mediums for the expression of our conscious potentials. And our heels are mediums for the expression of our inner will, which transcends conscious thought.

Similarly, in the analogy, it is the souls that can be compared to “heels,” the people living in ikvesa diMeshicha, whose commitment expresses inner power, and manifests the infinite potential of the G-dly spark in each of us.

Just Recompense

Other interpretations10 explain that the word eikev refers to “The End of Days” when the ultimate reward for observance of the Torah and its mitzvos will blossom. Indeed, the beginning of the Torah reading focuses on the reward we will receive for our Divine service.

This prompts a question: Since the mitzvos are G-dly, how can any material benefit possibly serve as fair recompense?

The answer to this question has its source in our Sages’ statement:11 “The reward for a mitzvah is the mitzvah.” The fundamental reward for observance of a mitzvah is the connection to G-d which such observance establishes.12

The rewards of health, success, and material well-being mentioned by the Torah are merely catalysts, making possible our observance. For when a person commits himself to observe the Torah and its mitzvos, G-d shapes his environment to encourage that observance. As the Rambam states:13

If you will serve G-d with happiness and observe His way, He will bestow these blessings upon you… so that you will be free to gain wisdom from the Torah and occupy yourself in it.

These benefits of observance, however, are not ends in themselves, but merely help men reach their ultimate goal: the service of G-d.

The real benefits mankind will receive will be in the Era of the Redemption, when:

There will be neither famine nor war, nor envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance, and all the delights will be as freely available as dust.14

And yet, man should not strive for this era merely in order to partake of its blessings.

The Sages and the prophets did not yearn for the Era of Mashiach in order to rule over the entire world, nor in order to eat, drink, and celebrate. Rather their aspiration was to be free [to involve themselves] in the Torah and its wisdom, without anyone to oppress or disturb them.15

It is the observance of the Torah and the connection to G-d which this engenders which should be the goal of all our endeavors.

Realization of the Mission

The two interpretations of the word eikev are interrelated. For it is the intense commitment that characterizes our Divine service during ikvesa diMeshicha which will bring the dawning of the era when we will be able to express that commitment without external challenge. Heartfelt dedication to the Torah today will bear fruit, leading to an age in which the inner spark of G-dliness which inspires our observance will permeate every aspect of existence. “For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed.”16

ONCE UPON A CHASID: Days of Light (Eikev)

Menachem Av 18, 5774 · August 14, 2014
Days of Light

He afflicted you, He hungered you… in order to let you know… (8:3)

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch writes:

My imprisonment [in 1927] was my seventh – I was imprisoned five times in the days of the old [czarist] regime and twice in the days of the new [communist] regime.

The first imprisonment took place in the Lubavitch of my childhood in 5651 [1891] when I was eleven years old. That year, I had begun – by the advice and instruction of my teacher, Rabbi Nissan – to submit my memoirs to writing. I recorded this incident in my journal of 5653 [1892-93].1

The second imprisonment took place in Lubavitch, in Iyar of 5662 [May-June 1902], because of an informing by the teachers of the school of the ‘Enlightenment’ movement in Lubavitch.

The third imprisonment took place in Lubavitch, in Teves of 5666 [Jan. 1906], as a result of the participation of members of the ‘Workers of Zion’ party in a riot against the Lubavitch police.

The fourth imprisonment took place in Petersburg, in Teves of 5670 [Dec. 1909-Jan. 1910], because of an informing by the Jewish scholar K.

The fifth imprisonment took place in Petersburg, in Shevat of 5676 [Jan.-Feb. 1916], because of my efforts to obtain legal material concerning the exemption of religious functionaries from military service.

The sixth imprisonment was in Tammuz of 5680 [June-July 1920] in Rostov-on-Don, because of the informing of D., the yevsektzia2head of Rostov.

All these, however, were imprisonments of but hours; but this, the seventh, is the most distinguished of them all.

As is the nature of things, the metaphor is more trivial than the subject and the subject more formidable than the metaphor. If confinement in a prison of wood and stone is an affliction, how much greater is the suffering of the G-dly Soul in the imprisonment of the body and the Animal Soul.3Men bedarf zich in dem batifen (‘One must think deeply of this’).

I will not deny that, at times, this seventh imprisonment causes me great pleasure, as is evident by the fact that now, some seven years after the incident, I occasionally take the time to seclude myself and envision the encounters and discussions, the visions and the dreams, which I heard, saw, and dreamt in those days.

In addition to the set life-periods of man – childhood, youth, his single and married days, maturity and old age; in addition to the talents granted him, be they average and ordinary or brilliant and phenomenal, or his temperament, whether shy and melancholy or joyous and exuberant; in addition to all this, Divine Providence grants him special moments in his life which may transform his nature, develop his faculties, and set him upon a higher plateau, so that he may behold the purpose of the life of man upon earth.

The period which most profoundly affects the course of a person’s soul and the development of his faculties is that period which is rich with pain and persecution for one’s his diligent and passionate work for an ideal. In particular, when one is struggling with and battling his persecutors and oppressors to uphold and strengthen his faith.

Such an experience, though fraught with pain of the body and agony of the soul, is rich with powerful impressions. These are the days of light in the life of man.

Each and every event of such a period is extremely significant and distinguished, particularly in the case of arrest and imprisonment. Because of their great spiritual value, not only the days and nights, but also the hours and minutes are worthy of note. For every hour and moment of pain, affliction and suffering brings tremendous rewards and infinite fortitude of mind – also the most feeble of men is transformed to the mightiest of the mighty.

This last imprisonment began at 2:45 a.m. early Wednesday morning, Tuesday night, Sivan 15 5687 [June 15, 1927], and lasted until 1:30 p.m. Sunday Tammuz 3rd [July 3], in the city of Leningrad-Petersburg.

Eighteen days, eleven hours, and fifteen minutes.

That day at 8:30 o’clock in the evening, after approximately six hours at home, I left with the train that goes to the city of Kastrama. I arrived on the next day, Monday the 4th of Tammuz, and I remained in exile until 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the 13th of Tammuz.

Nine days and Seventeen hours…

PARSHAH PICKS: Reward?!

Menachem Av 17, 5774 · August 13, 2014
General Overview:

 

Moses continues his pep talk to the Israelites, cautioning them not to fear the Canaanite armies for G‑d will wage battle for them. He also notifies them that their entry into the Land is not due to their own virtues – Moses reminds them of their many transgressions to emphasize this point – but rather, it is in the merit of the nation’s Forefathers. The commandments of prayer and Grace After Meals are mentioned. The second part of the Shema is also found in this portion.

 

This Week’s Features  

By Rochel Holzkenner
THE PARSHAH

Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25

Moses describes Israel as a land flowing with milk and honey, describes the seven kinds of produce with which the land is blessed, and warns the nation about becoming haughty in the Promised Land.

COLUMNISTS

In the first paragraph of Shema we are told first the mitzvah of education and then the mitzvah of tefillin. The order is reversed in the second paragraph. What is the significance behind this change in wording?

By Eli Pink

The subtle differences between the first and second paragraphs of the Shema offer the key to our spiritual survival in a world without miracles.

By Asher Deren

If G‑d wants us to “perform the true service simply because it is true,” why does He distract us with promises of recompense? Is it a proper to give someone an incentive if it’s essentially not in his or her best interest?

By Baruch Epstein
FEATURED VIDEO

Decoding the hidden messages

Aaron L. Raskin
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A Taste of Text—Eikev

We cannot ignore the “heel” mitzvot. They must be done with the same enthusiasm as the “head” mitzvot, because ultimately they are both the wish of G‑d.

By Chana Weisberg
Watch Watch (18:44)

Parshat Eikev

The Torah (Deuteronomy 10:17) tells us that G-d “does not show favor, nor does He take bribes.” Yet in the Midrash our sages declare that there is a way to bribe Him! This class reveals the secret to bribing G-d. (Likkutei Sichos, vol. 34, p. 59)

By Moishe New
Watch Watch (40:00)
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An overview of the weekly Parshah, through the eyes of the many commentators, enriching your understanding of how our great history unfolded.

By Marty Goodman
Download Download   Listen Listen (92:54)

Examining the weekly Torah reading through the lens of contemporary commentary, showing how topical and relevant the parshas’ ideas really are. Both mystical and pragmatic, this lesson will elevate your spirit and refine your view of the world around you.

By Mendel Kaplan
Download Download   Listen Listen (59:32)

PARSHAH IN A NUTSHELL: Eikev

Menachem Av 17, 5774 · August 13, 2014
Eikev
Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

In the Parshah of Eikev (“Because“), Moses continues his closing address to the Children of Israel, promising them that if they will fulfill the commandments (Mitzvot) of the Torah, they will prosper in the Land they are about to conquer and settle in keeping with G-d’s promise to their forefathers.

Moses also rebukes them for their failings in their first generation as a people, recalling their worship of the Golden Calf, the rebellion ofKorach, the sin of the Spies, their angering of G-d at Taveirah, Massah and Kivrot Hataavah (“The Graves of Lust“); “You have been rebelliousagainst G-d,” he says to them, “since the day I knew you.” But he also speaks of G-d’s forgiveness of their sins, and the Second Tablets which G-d inscribed and gave to them following their repentance.

Their 40 years in the desert, says Moses to the people, during which G-d sustained them with daily manna from heaven, was to teach them “that man does not live on bread alone, but by the utterance of G-d’s mouth does man live.”

Moses describes the land they are about to enter as “flowing with milk and honey,” blessed with the “Seven Kinds” (wheat and barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates,olive oil and dates), and the place that is the focus of G-d’s providence of His world. He commands them to destroy the idols of the land’s former masters, and to beware lest they become haughty and begin to believe that “my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.”

A key passage in our Parshah is the second chapter of the Sh’ma, which repeats the fundamental mitzvot enumerated in the Sh’ma’s first chapter and describes therewards of fulfilling G-d’s commandments and the adverse results (famine and exile) of their neglect. It is also the source of the precept of prayer and includes a reference to the resurrection of the dead in the Messianic Age.

WEEKLY ALIYOT: Parshat Eikev

Menachem Av 17, 5774 · August 13, 2014
Eikev Aliya Summary

General Overview: Moses continues his pep talk to the Israelites, cautioning them not to fear the Canaanite armies for G‑d will wage battle for them. He also notifies them that their entry into the Land is not due to their own virtues – Moses reminds them of their many transgressions to emphasize this point – but rather, it is in the merit of the nation’s Forefathers. The commandments of prayer and Grace After Meals are mentioned. The second part of the Shema is also found in this portion.


First Aliyah: This section begins with a promise: if the Israelites observe G‑d’s commandments, they will be blessed in a multitude of ways, including the obliteration of their Canaanite enemies. Moses enjoins the Israelites not to fear these enemies, for G‑d will miraculously deliver them into their hands. Moses instructs the Israelites to destroy all the idols and their accoutrements which they will find in Canaan. Moses then discusses their forty-year desert ordeal, and the many tests and miracles which accompanied them. Moses provides a description of many of the wonderful features of the Land of Israel, and the Israelites are commanded to bless G‑d after they eat and are sated.


Second Aliyah: Moses admonishes the Israelites that the new-found fortune which will be their lot once they enter the Promised Land should not lead them to forget the One who provided them with the wealth. Such a blunder would lead to their destruction and ruin.


Third Aliyah: Moses tells the Israelites that they will inherit the Land of Israel not due to their own merits and righteousness, but because of the promise G‑d made to the Patriarchs. In fact, Moses reminds them of the many times they angered G‑d while in the desert, placing special emphasis on the sin of the Golden Calf, when G‑d would have annihilated the Israelites if not for Moses’ successful intercession on their behalf. He also makes brief reference to the other times when the Israelites rebelled against G‑d.


Fourth Aliyah: Moses recounts how after the Golden Calf debacle, G‑d commanded him to carve two new tablets upon which G‑d engraved the Ten Commandments, to replace the first set of tablets which Moses had shattered. At that time, G‑d also designated the Levites to be His holy servants, because of the devotion they demonstrated throughout the Golden Calf incident.


Fifth Aliyah: Moses charges the Israelites to love and fear G‑d, and to serve Him. He expounds on G‑d’s greatness, and impresses on the Israelites their great fortune: that G‑d has chosen them to be His treasured nation. He again reminds them of the many miracles G‑d had performed on their behalf since they left Egypt.


Sixth Aliyah: Moses tells the Israelites that the land of Israel is constantly dependent upon G‑d for irrigating rains, and that the land is constantly under G‑d’s watchful eyes. We then read the second paragraph of the Shema prayer. In this section we are admonished to observe G‑d’s commandments, which will cause G‑d to supply bountiful rainfall and harvests. Non-observance will lead to exile. We are commanded regarding prayer, tefillin, mezuzah, and teaching Torah to our children.


Seventh Aliyah: Moses informs the Israelites that if they follow G‑d’s ways and cleave to Him, they will easily occupy the land of Israel, and no man will stand up against them.

TORAH STUDIES: Parshat Eikev

Menachem Av 17, 5774 · August 13, 2014
Ekev

Last week and this, we read the first two Haftorot of “consolation,” two powerful passages from Isaiah which present a vision of hope and solace to Israel in the dark times of the loss of the Temple. A Midrashic source, however, tells us that there is a difference between them. The first is G-d’s call to the prophets to comfort the people. But Israel seeks more. It seeks comfort from G-d Himself. And this is what the second Haftorah represents. The Sicha relates this distinction to the difference between the Sidrot of Vaetchanan and Ekev, in particular between the first and second paragraphs of the Shema which they respectively contain. The underlying theme is the difference between two kinds of revelation, that which comes from outside a person, and that which comes from within. The significance for our time is clear: What form must our spiritual life take when visions of G-d no longer break in on us, when the face of G-d is hidden, and we must discover Him from within?

1. Consolation: the Prophets and G-d

This week’s Haftorah, the second of the “Seven Weeks of Consolation,” for the destruction of the Temples, is the passage from Isaiah1 beginning, “But Zion said, the L-rd hath forsaken me, and the L-rd hath forgotten me.” The Midrash2 tells us that this is a continuation of the theme of the previous Haftorah, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people.”3 In that first message of comfort, G-d instructs the prophets to console Israel. To this, Israel’s response is, “The L-rd hath forsaken me.” They seek, in other words, not the voice of the prophets but a consolation that comes directly from G-d.

Each year these Haftorot are read, respectively, with the Sidrot of Vaetchanan and Ekev. It follows that if the Haftorot are connected by this common theme, so too are the Sidrot. Vaetchanan must contain some reference to the consolation of the prophets, and Ekev, to Israel’s demand for the solace that stems from G-d Himself.

2. The Shema

The two Sidrot differ considerably in their content, so that this contrast of emphasis is not immediately apparent. But there is one obvious link, namely that the first paragraph of the Shema is to be found in Vaetchanan and the second in Ekev. These two passages are clearly related; they have many ideas in common; but they also diverge at a number of points. And it is here that we will find an echo of the contrast between the two Haftorot and the two kinds of consolation.

3. Contrasts

Amongst the differences between the first and second paragraphs of the Shema are the following:

(i) In the first, we are commanded (individually) to “love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” But in the second, we are addressed (collectively) only with the phrase “with all your heart and with all your soul.” The “might” is missing.

(ii) In the first paragraph, we are told first “And you shall teach them diligently to your children, and talk of them…” and then, “And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand…” But in the second, the order is reversed. First “You shall bind them” and only then, “You shall teach them to your children.” The commandments follow the study of the Torah in the first paragraph but precede it in the second.

(iii) The first paragraph contains only commandments. But the second also mentions the rewards (“That your days may be multiplied…”) and the punishments (“The anger of the L-rd be kindled against you…”) which attend them.

4. Underlying Differences

An underlying difference between the two passages is, as Rashi4 points out, that the first (written throughout in the singular) is addressed to the individual Jew, while the second (which uses the plural) is directed to Israel as a community.

This applies to the general command of the love of G-d. In addition, the specific commands of tefillin and mezuzah, which occur in both paragraphs, also convey something new when stated a second time. In Rashi’s words,5 the extra significance is that “Even after you have been exiled, make yourselves distinctive by means of My commands: Lay tefillin, attach mezuzot, so that these shall not be new (unfamiliar) to you when you return.”

Lastly, there is a nuance which distinguishes the two commands of spreading the knowledge of Torah. “And you shall teach them diligently”—the version in the first paragraph—refers to the obligation of a teacher to his disciples.6 “And you shall teach them”—the reading in the second paragraph—refers to the relation of a father to his children.7

5. Above and Within

All these distinctions stem from a single point of difference: Vaetchanan concerns the revelation and deliverance that come from Above, from G-d’s grace. Thus it begins with Moses’ supplication to G-d for His grace, that he be allowed to enter the Promised Land. For Moses was G-d’s emissary through whom came the supernatural events of the exodus and those in the wilderness. Had he been permitted to lead the Israelites across the Jordan, the conquest of the land, too, would have been a supernatural event instead of a slow succession of military victories.

But the Sidra of Ekev concerns man’s situation, and the revelation he draws down upon himself by his own acts. So it begins with an account of what he can achieve, and how: “And it shall come to pass, because you hearken to these judgments….” Even its name, Ekev (“because”), also has the connotation in Hebrew of a “heel”—the lowliest and least sensitive of man’s limbs, and an apt symbolism of his physical nature, which by hearkening to G-d’s word he can transform.

This contrast is also reflected in the choice of verbs in the opening of the two Sidrot. In Vaetchanan, Moses pleads that he might “see the good land.”8 But in Ekev, G-d says “because you hearken to (literally: ‘hear’) these judgments.” “Seeing” describes the vision of the supernatural that G-d confers in moments of grace. “Hearing” refers to the more distant, less lucid perception of the spiritual, to which man can aspire by his own efforts.

6. Seeing and Hearing

Seeing something is clearer and more forceful than hearing about it.9 Nonetheless, this force and clarity are due to what is seen rather than to the person who sees it. It is the object which is clearly defined; and the man who sees it may still be unaffected by it. But if he has made the effort to hear about something, he has already aroused his feelings and made himself sensitive to what he is about to hear. It can then enter the inwardness of his soul.

This is true, too, of the difference between Vaetchanan and Ekev. Although the “vision” which Moses sought from G-d was a greater revelation than the “hearkening” which the Israelites could achieve by themselves, it was less inward—it would have come to man from outside instead of mounting within him.

The effect on the world would have been different, also. Through G-d, via Moses, the nations who opposed Israel would have had their hostility utterly removed: “All the inhabitants of Canaan are melted away. Terror and dread fall upon them.”10 But through Israel’s own faithfulness a greater and more inward transformation would take place: “You shall be blessed above all peoples,”11 meaning that even Israel’s adversaries would bless and praise her.

7. The Partial and the Whole

Another difference between the two senses in this: Seeing is only one of man’s faculties. But hearing touches them all—his intellect, in striving to understand G-d’s command, his will, in choosing to obey, and his practical faculties in translating his intentions into deeds.

Jewish law reflects this. For if someone is guilty of causing a person to become blind, he must compensate him for the loss of his eyes. But if he is responsible for his deafness, he must pay him the whole value of his life, as if he had robbed him of all his faculties.12

8. The Two Revelations and the Shema

Now we can trace all the many differences between the two paragraphs of the Shema to their source.

The first belongs to the Sidra of Vaetchanan, which concerns the revelation from Above, as symbolized by the sense of sight.

The second is from Ekev, which concerns the revelation from within, which is like “hearing.”

Thus the first is addressed to the individual, the “one,” for it speaks of the revelation from G-d, the “One,” which awakens the oneness of man. This vision of infinity makes man restless to cast off his earthly constraints, and this is why it adds “with all your might.” But the second paragraph, relating as it does to man within his human situation, speaks in the plural, to the community, for it is addressed to man in his diversity and in the plurality of his powers. The love of G-d which man achieves by himself is settled and serene (“with all your heart and all your soul”). It does not share that violent desire to rise beyond the world which the words “with all your might” signify.

The first paragraph, as a consequence, sets the study of Torah (the word of G-d) before the command of tefillin and mezuzah (the act of man). But the second, starting from man and working towards G-d, reverses the order.

The first paragraph also omits any reference to reward and punishment. For in the face of a vision of G-d, man needs no other inducement to do His will. But when he sets out to work towards G-d from his own situation, he needs at the outset some motive (reward and punishment) that he can understand in purely human terms.

9. Faith in Exile

Despite this concession to human frailty, it is here, in the second paragraph, that we find a reference to keeping the commandments “even after you have been exiled.” For the first paragraph represents a state of mind where exile might take away the will to obey, might even remove the whole force of the Divine command. If the desire to do G-d’s will rests on the vision of His presence, then once it is hidden by the dark clouds of exile, the desire too goes into hiding. But when it comes from within man himself, it remains, even in exile, in its strength.

And just as this revelation from within persists whether there is light or darkness in the face that G-d sets towards the world, so it is to be communicated not only to those who have seen the light, the “disciples,” but to everyone; the “children.”

10. The True Consolation

Lastly, we can see the link between the two kinds of revelation represented by Vaetchanan and Ekev, and the two kinds of consolation embodied in their Haftorot.

The revelation that comes from outside of man lacks the ultimate dimension of inwardness. That is why the Haftorah of Vaetchanan, “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people,” describes an indirect consolation, one that comes via the prophets.

But the Haftorah of Ekev is set in the human attempt to struggle towards G-d from within. Its opening words dramatically convey this situation at its darkest: “But Zion said, the L-rd hath forsaken me, and the L-rd hath forgotten me.” And yet this is a measure of its inwardness, that the consolations of a prophet are not enough. And so, the Midrash tells us, G-d accedes to Israel’s request. He admits, “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, are not comforted.”13 And He proclaims “I, even I, am He that comforts you”—with the true, the final and the imminent consolation, the coming of the Messianic Age.

(Source: Likkutei Sichot, Vol. IX pp. 79-85)

 

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