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Parashat Eikev

August 4, 2023
17 Av 5783
Deuteronomy 7:12 - 11:25

Dear Friends,

On my vacation I have been slowly reading Rabbi Michael Strassfeld’s book, “Judaism Disrupted, a spiritual manifesto for the 21st Century."  One of the most striking threads in the book is his insight about the importance of listening -- an insight he came to when he became a rabbi. Rabbi Strassfeld is a very quiet and shy person; when you don’t speak much in social settings, you learn to listen as you are not preparing to jump into the social milieu that can keep you from hearing what others are saying. 

The role of listening with one’s whole self takes effort. All too often we are more concerned with what we are going to do next and how we are going to respond, putting ourselves into the center of any situation.

This week’s Torah portion, Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12 -11:25), can be translated as "consequences." Moses addresses the people as they are finally preparing to enter the land without him. Like any good parent readying to send a child off to a new experience without them, he gives the people the best advice he can.

We may not resonate with the way some of what he says is framed, but he wants more than anything for the people not to squander this opportunity. Moses reminds the people that their choices have consequences and to be aware.

We read a large section of this Torah portion right after we recite the V’ahavta after the Sh’ma. In essence, we are being told to not take what you have for granted. Do not assume it will always be there. Maybe it will help if you tell your children the story. We know that when we tell the story to our children, we are also telling the story to ourselves, giving all an opportunity to hear it deeply once more.

What is the story? It is the story of our liberation, but it is also the reminder that once we were slaves and we have been lucky.

“For your God יהוה is God supreme and Adonai supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing food and clothing.— You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut.10:17-19)

The realization that we have been lucky and that what we have is not entirely of our own doing matters. It makes us humble. E.B. White wrote that “Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” But maybe that is exactly when we should be talking about it. As Rabbi Dan Ross wrote, “just thinking about luck makes us better people.”

This Torah portion asks us to think about the consequences and to do so by paying attention, by listening, and by being awake. So much of what we have is because of others in our lives reach out, being there. Life isn’t easy, but take a moment and think about where you would be without the people who have been there along the way.

Moses works hard through his words to give the people a sense of gratitude and a sense of appreciation for where they are at this moment, despite all of the obstacles. May we pay attention as well, truly listen, and offer our gratitude for coming to this moment.


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Tue, October 3 2023 18 Tishrei 5784