This week’s Torah portion continues with Moses’ farewell address to the Jewish nation. He counsels the community to “hearken” or listen to all of the laws and ordinances set forth by G-d in the Torah and in exchange they will receive kindness and blessings of every type. The word Eikev (hearken) also means “heel” and the commentators suggest that the word is used in order to communicate that it is not just the big laws and ordinances that should be followed, but also the smaller, lesser important laws - the ordinances that could figuratively be trampled by your heel. It is important to understand that by following even the smaller laws and ordinances we demonstrate our trust in G-d, showing what matters is G-d’s word and the proscribed ordinances, not what we believe is important. It is also suggested that our heal is the lowest level of the body which reflects Malchut or physicality, the realm in which the evil inclination or the satan resides. By following the laws and ordinances of the Torah we can rise above this realm of physicality, where our heels touch the earth and raise our consciousness to higher levels of spirituality. The main lesson is cause and effect. If we follow a prescribed set of rules and ordinances, good things will happen. This can be applied to everything in life. Experiences, whether good or bad do not just happen to us, but rather are the result of our positive or negative actions and give rise to the concept of free will.
The portion continues with Moses advising the Jewish nation not to forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon them. G-d says through Moses, “[b]e careful not to forget G-d, your G-d....you might then eat and be satisfied, build good houses and live in them, as your herds and your flocks will increase, your silver and gold accumulate, and everything that you have prospers.” It is easy to pray and believe in G-d when things are not going great, when we are "wandering in the desert". It is when we are satisfied and successful that we must remember not to take the credit for our success, but rather to continue to believe that our success is a result of G-d or the creator’s beneficence. G-d states that if the people begin to follow other gods and worship them, then the people will be destroyed again and again. Other gods in today's society can be fame, money, a bad relationship or job - some form of idol worship. If you have faith in G-d and believe that it is His good will and mercy behind everything that happens, then maintain this belief when you have found success in life in order to maintain those blessings.
Moses continues his farewell address and asks the Israelites to “[r]emember and not forget” how they angered G-d by creating the Golden Calf. By recounting the story of how Moses came down the mountain the first time with the tablets engraved with the 10 commandments, we see how G-d forgives us for our transgressions. Even something as blasphemous as making a golden idol can be forgiven, showing us how the negative acts we commit in our daily lives can likewise be forgiven and are an opportunity to learn and correct our prior bad actions. The commentators suggest that the Jewish nation was like the righteous Tzadikim with the first set of tablets. With the second set, they were even more elevated, similar to the Ba’alei Teshuvah (penitents), that are able to return to the Light through the process of transformation. We also learn an important lesson about leadership in this section. When Moses retells the event of the Golden Calf he describes how when he saw the Golden Calf he “grasped” the tablets and smashed them. He then pleaded with G-d to save the Jewish people despite G-d's initial reaction to smite the nation. These actions reflect Moses' nature as a true leader whereby he took full responsibility for the nation and bargained for their continued security and blessings. Similarly, as leaders in our communities, businesses or families, it is equally important for us to take responsibility for all actions that happen to us and not blame others, even if it means giving up our power or status in order to protect people under our leadership.
Moses continues to exhort the Israelites to follow the commandments and mitzvoth set forth in the Torah in order to receive continued blessings. If they follow the commandments, they will be able to conquer the land of Israel, land that had been promised to them - a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses shares that the demands on the people are minor when compared to the mercy and blessings that God provides. We can learn from this that we should never trade short-term pleasures received from worshipping idols or engaging in sinful behavior in exchange for long term blessings, health and prosperity. We should recognize that since we have been created in the likeness of G-d, that we too have an opportunity to be merciful, forgiving and kind to others, similar to G-d’s relationship with each of us. If we are all created in the likeness of G-d in order to reveal and elevate holiness in our largely mundane day-to-day experience, then we have an opportunity to see G-d in everyone and everything. This realization will lead us to love others and to treat everyone with human dignity and respect, the ultimate purpose of creation.
Have a great week!