Ekev – Moments Before Entering the Land: You Haven’t Come Here Alone
Moshe Rabbeinu wanted the Jewish people to understand that God would look after them even when they were at war, during the conquest of the land, and during times of concern, but they needed to pray a great deal, and keep their hopes up, as they had done in the desert.
Avi Ganz is the Director of the Elaine and Norm Brodsky Yeshivat Darkaynu
Parashat Ekev documents the last time Moshe Rabbeinu addressed the Jewish people before passing. As the leader of the generation, Moshe was taking his leave of a new nation that had undergone complex and difficult processes. It was at that point, as they prepared to enter a new and intimidating place, that Moshe reminds them of their past: “Just look at how Hashem looked after you, providing whatever you needed. He did miracles for you, revealed and everlasting miracles, to help you overcome these hardships with peace of mind.” But why did He do this? After all, the Israelites were a developing nation. Like a small child leaving his home for the first time, they should be encouraged to be independent. Wouldn’t they feel like they were being abandoned if Moshe were to focus too much on the past?
Moshe also reminds them that they were entering the land without manna, the clouds of glory, and Miriam’s well. Why? Moshe Rabbeinu wanted the Jewish people to peer into the future in light of their reflection on the past. “Look to the past, and you’ll discover that you had everything you needed, because the universe had a Father, a Caretaker, who took care of the things you needed and performed great miracles”. Moshe wanted the people to understand that this same Caretaker, their heavenly Father, would also look after them when they were engaged in battle and conquest, and when they were sowing and plowing their fields, beset with worry over what the future had in store for them. Earning a livelihood requires investment and action, but to the same extent, it also requires prayer and hope – the same prayers and hope that kept the people going when they were in the desert.
In Parashat Beshalach, we learned about the manna that Hashem sent to the people: “The omer is a tenth of an ephah.” The “tenth of an ephah” is a commonly used unit of measurement in the Torah, but we only encounter this unit of measurement twice in connection to the omer. The first time it appears is when we learn about the manna (each individual was allowed to collect a quantity of manna equaling a tenth of an ephah – the omer). The second time, in Parashat Emor, is in the context of the omer barley flour offering, at the beginning of the harvest season, brought starting on the second day of Passover.
Barley flour is completely tasteless, and is usually used as animal feed. In the case of the omer, this is the first flour produced from the new crop, which was brought as an offering after careful sifting (it was sifted 13 times!). Thus, we take the most carefully sifted flour of the simplest species of grain, which is inedible to humans, and infuse it with a similar meaning to the one the manna had, which was a completely spiritual food. The Israelites’ material pursuits, once they entered the land, are part and parcel of their spiritual pursuits, just as the omer offering of barley had the potential of being just like the manna, which was a spiritual omer. Though it needed to be sifted and refined, it had enormous potential.
Moshe parted from the Jewish people with a powerful message: “Look back,” he said. “You haven’t come here alone, and you won’t remain here alone. Don’t stop working on your spirituality. This is a new land, and life will not be easy, but you will be able to scale mountains, both physically and spiritually.”