Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eikev 5774 (עקֶב)

Eikev 5774 (עקֶב)                   “If” or ”Because”                                           16 August 2014

               Torah:   Devarim:7:12-11:25
           Haftarah:   Yeshiyahu 49:14-51:3
Brit Hadashah:   Yohanon 13:31-15:27
                              Acts 16:1-17:34

6th Aliyah (Dev. 11:10-11:21)

            Down through our history, the fathers have shown their approval / confirmation upon their chief heir – the one responsible for taking the family through the next chapter of life – by means of a special honor/blessing.  This is evidenced by a double portion of inheritance, ‘the Blessing”, etc.  The principal heir would receive the first and the best. The rest of the heirs would receive the ‘leftovers’.
            With Ham ben Noach,  this was no different.  He built Hebron (in what is present-day Yisrael)  a full seven years before he built Zoan (in what is present day Egypt) for his son Mizraim (cf Bamidbar 13:22).  Bereishit 13:10 compares Egypt to the Garden of HaShem – “like the garden of the L-rd, like the land of Egypt” – setting it above all other lands.  Yeshiyahu, calling Zoan the home of princes, elevates it to the best of Egypt (Yeshiyahu 30:4).  On the other hand, Hebron was the lowest of all Yisrael, and thus was set aside as a burial ground.  Despite these comparisons, the Talmud’s summary is that Hebron is seven-fold better than Zoan (Tractate Kethuboth 112a).
            On the eve of their entry into the land of promise ,  HaShem, via Moshe, gives B’nai Yisrael a reminder of their not-so-enjoyable sojourn in the land of Mizraim.  HE told them that the land of Yisrael was not the same as the land they left forty years prior.  Instead of a flat land which had to be irrigated manually (moving dirt by foot to change the irrigation from one section to another), Yisrael’s rainfall took care of that need for water.  The difference in terrain – mountains and valleys of Yisrael, versus of the flat plain of Mizraim would produce a yield of at least four fold.
            Scripture states that HaShem looks after the land, that His eyes are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end thereof – a promise of His provision!
            At this point in Scripture, the second paragraph of the Shema begins.  The first paragraph talks about Yisrael needing to hear about HaShem, and about  every last Child of Yisrael loving Adonai (the L-rd) Eloheicha your (singular) G-d with all levavcha your(singular) heart.  This second paragraph, however, gives a different wording, this time in plural form If shamo-a (you, plural) shall hear/hearken …  I command etchem (you plural) … Eloheichem (your - plural) G-d … levavchem (your-plural) heart … . HaShem is addressing / admonishing the whole community to love and serve Him.
            Daniel had the right idea of service – the Persian king said “your G-d, Whom you serve regularly …” (Daniel 6:17).  Daniel was not in the land of Yisrael, nor had he been for decades.  There was no Temple there in which he could worship, so he prayed, kneeling toward Yerusalem three times every day.  Prayer from the heart was his service.  The psalms declare a similar attitude from King David.
            The Shema sums it up with keep the Word ever before your eyes, your homes, your cities.  As you rise up, lay down, let the Word ooze out every pore.  Teach them to thy children – teach yourself and your life will teach much louder!.
            As we hearken and love, HaShem will supply our necessary rain, etc. We are to gather what He blesses us with – the food, the wine, and the oil.  G-d will provide and we will procure.
            The sum of the matter:  Love HaShem! In whatever you do, whether study, your job, the ‘daily grind’, do it all out of love for Him, and He will be honored.

Shabbat Shalom.

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