Parashat Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

“Therefore keep the commandments of the Lord your God:

walk in his ways and revere him.” (Deut. 8:6)

 

Parashat Eikev is the source of the English saying, “…man does not live by bread alone…”  (Deut. 8:3)  Today, we interpret this to mean there’s more to life than its physical or material aspect.  But the verse continues, “…but that man may live on anything the Lord decrees,” referring to the manna God sent to sustain the Israelites in the desert.  Moses is reminding the Israelites it is God’s goodness and greatness that keeps them alive.

A few verses later, the Torah commands, “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.” (Deut. 8:10)  This verse is the basis for reciting birkat hamazon, the blessing  after meals.  While the verse highlights God’s goodness, it also identifies a primary Jewish attitude toward life that is independent theologically: gratitude.

The Jewish system of bracha, or blessing, structures  moments of reflection throughout the day to remind us we are lucky to have what we have…even if what we have isn’t all that much.   It also reminds us there is more to life than having things.  Reciting a bracha (whether or not you use the “official” rabbinic formula) is humbling: it forces us to admit, when we ordinarily might be impressed with ourselves, that we are indebted to something or someone else for help along the way.  The Jewish system of bracha teaches us never to take anything (good food, good friends, good health) for granted.  Gratitude is fundamental to Jewish life and is the partner attitude to generosity of spirit.  The latter is a framework for giving, the former a framework for receiving.

Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,

David

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