Ekev

“Parsha and Purpose” – Ekev 5781 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Building the Jewish State with Human Initiative and Divine Guidance”

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Parshat Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

“Building the Jewish State with Human Initiative and Divine Guidance”

At this point, we have all become used to explaining to others the necessity of a Jewish state – especially when we are confronted with threats of BDS, from those who seek to delegitimize and ultimately dismantle the Jewish state.

But there is an even more important audience and an even more basic question.

The more important audience is us. And the basic question that we need to be able to answer is, “What is our role in the Jewish state?”

I’d like to share an insight from this week’s Torah portion, Ekev, which offers a powerful answer.

In Chapter 8 of the Book of Devarim, the Torah describes the Land of Israel in the most beautiful of ways, noting its natural beauty, produce, resources and minerals.

However, beyond the poetic beauty of the description lies an important sequence which teaches us a crucial lesson about our relationship with God.

The first verse relates that God is bringing us to a good land with flowing streams and springs. (Deuteronomy 8:7)

These are things that exist independently from our involvement; we are passive recipients. 

In the next verse, our active partnership is required, as we must plant and reap wheat, barley, vines, figs and pomegranates. (Deuteronomy 8:8)

The verse continues, repeating the word “Eretz”, and speaks of things requiring even more human initiative, as it is not enough to simply harvest the olives or the dates; but rather, one must crush an olive to obtain its oil and squeeze a date to access its honey. 

Next, the Torah refers to the Jewish People in the land not lacking for food, using bread – the staple food – in this context. (Deuteronomy 8:9)

Making bread is an arduous process which requires a lot more human participation than any of the previously-mentioned items.  

And finally, the Torah discusses the natural resources and minerals found within the Land of Israel: copper and iron and gas and oil, all of which require an immense amount of work to mine before we can benefit from them. 

And then, immediately after this progression from passively receiving the Land’s bounty to becoming active partners in its acquisition, the Torah mentions the necessity of thanking God:

ואכלת ושבעת וברכת את ה’ אלוקיך

And you shall eat and be satiated and shall bless the Lord your God (Deuteronomy 8:10)

This is the verse where we learn about the mandate for Birkat Hamazon, the Grace after Meals, to be recited after eating bread.

Birkat Hamazon is longer and more comprehensive than the blessings “Bore Nefashot” and “Me’ein Shalosh”, which are recited after other foods.

Since a person doesn’t have to do much in order to benefit from grapes or other produce, and one can more clearly see God’s role in providing it, the blessing after consuming the product doesn’t need to be extensive.

However, the line from the wheat in the field to the bread on one’s table is less direct.

It’s not hard to start believing that the bread is the result of our own toil, rather than a gift from God.

It is human nature to forget about the central role that God plays in our lives when we invest so much into the initiative ourselves.

Therefore, the Grace after Meals after eating bread is more extensive.

And now, to answer our original question: What is our role in the Jewish state?

The messages of these verses are clear:

  1. The Land of Israel, given to us by God, requires human initiative in order to flourish; this is shown in the movement we see in the verses that describe the land. We must be actors in the ongoing drama known as Yishuv Eretz Yisrael.
  2. Whether it is the tilling of the soil, or the technological advances that so often emanate from this “Start Up Nation”, or the engagement of the hearts and minds of others who live in the land, it is our responsibility to grow the land, to actualize the potential of the land and to realize that while God is the Senior Partner in this process, we must also be active participants in the experience.
  3. God wants us in this land to be brothers and sisters, to engage and to use its gifts to better our lives. To never use His Torah, a Torah of peace, or the Land and its holy sites to divide people, but rather to transform this land of milk and honey into a place of harmony and a light to the nations of the world.

For these reasons and so many more, we need – and the world needs us – to help shape our Jewish state.

And we can play a role in this process whether we live within its borders or anywhere else in the world.

May we merit to continue working to fulfill Israel’s potential and its promise. 

Shabbat Shalom.

Tamar Beer

Parshat Ekev: Reinventing the Covenant – Judgment, Mercy, and Second Chances Tamar Beer studied at Midreshet Lindenbaum  from 2016 -2018. She is currently enrolled at GPATS (Graduate Program for Advanced Talmudic Studies) and Azrieli Graduate School for Education, and directs a summer women’s beit midrash program called Bnot Sinai.   The concept of “shmartem et …

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This week’s “Shabbat Shalom” is dedicated in celebration ofYakira Bryna Elison’s 7th Birthday— 28 Avby her loving grandparentsIan and Bernice Charif of Sydney, Australia Parshat Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “Remember the entire path along which the Lord your God led you these forty years in the desert, He …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Ekev 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“How Jewish should the ‘Jewish State’ Be?

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“How Jewish Should the ‘Jewish State’ Be?

What does it mean to be a “Jewish state”? A state whose laws are based on halacha – Jewish law? Or a state that serves as a homeland for the Jewish People, but which is more “kosher style” regarding halacha?

We are confronted with variations of these questions all the time, such as, for example, the perennial debate about whether or not public transportation should be permitted on Shabbat.

These questions are not just for the philosophers of Facebook and Twitter to debate.

How these and other questions are answered have a real impact on the lives of everyday people, Jewish and non-Jewish, in Israel and all over the world.

Our parsha, Parshat Ekev, provides guidance on how we might view this very sensitive issue.

Two arks accompanied the Jewish People, the second of which we learn about for the first time in this week’s Torah portion:

“V’Asita Lecha Aron Eitz,” “Make a wooden ark.” Deuteronomy 10:1

Moshe reports that in bringing down the second set of tablets from Sinai, God commands him to make a wooden ark to house the shattered first set of tablets.

Why do we need this additional ark, made of wood? Was not the beautiful one, built by Betzalel from wood and overlaid with gold, sufficient?

Rashi and Tosafot explain that in fact each ark had a distinct role. Rashi on Deuteronomy 10:1, Tosefta Sotah 7:18

The golden ark, containing the fully whole second set of tablets, remained permanently within the private domain of the Tabernacle and the Temple.

In contrast, the wooden ark was brought into the public domain – specifically in times of war and challenge.

The golden ark in the private domain represents uncompromising permanence; the responsibility of ensuring that the Jewish spiritual experience remains complete and whole – much like the second set of tablets housed within.

But we ALSO have a responsibility, particularly in the State of Israel, to bring the ark into the public domain, to engage Judaism with society.

This is symbolized by the wooden ark, housing the broken luchot, that was brought into the public domain at challenging times to serve as a unifying symbol of hope and purpose. 

The Shattered Luchot symbolize that there are challenges and sometimes even setbacks, when Torah engages in the public domain.

But it was never used as a coercive symbol to divide the camp of the Jewish people. 

People are looking for meaning and purpose in Judaism, but they are not interested in being told HOW to do IT or HOW TO believe.

And we’ve seen this at Ohr Torah Stone. Our engagement with 400,000 secular Israelis every year at dozens of local community centers and parks where we share the beauty of our [Jewish] heritage and tradition, we do so in a spirit of acceptance, without any attempt to coerce.

Our engagement with Jews in the larger society must be based on love and shared destiny, without preconceived notions of where their journey will take them.

Ultimately, this is perhaps the most constructive way of helping shape the conversation of what it means to be a “Jewish state.”

May we succeed in this sacred responsibility.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – The biblical source for thanking the Almighty for the our worldly gifts is to be found in this week’s portion, Ekev. And if preparation of our meals takes a great deal of time and effort, if our tradition mandates so many laws about …

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Elana GOldscheder

Parashat Ekev: Redemption depends upon both the individual and the collective “And if you obey these rules…,” the words that begin the week’s parsha, serve as a reminder that our responsibility isn’t just communal. Rather, each of us, as an individual, must revisit his or her personal relationship with Hashem. Elana Goldscheider is Director of …

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This week’s parsha commentary has been dedicated by the Charif family of Sydney, Australiain honor of their granddaughter Yakira Bryna Elison’s 5th Birthday Shabbat Shalom: Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin    Efrat, Israel –  “Not by bread alone does a human being live, but rather by that which comes forth from the Lord’s …

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