By Joy Scott, Am Haskalah Congregant
In this week’s parsha, Ekev, Moses continues his closing address to the Children of Israel, which he began in parsha Devarim, and expanded upon in last week’s parsha. Moses clearly was aware of the risks for this new generation. They may not remember the miracles, which God had performed to sustain their ancestors in the desert for forty years, the sins which their parents committed, God’s wrath, the dire consequences for these sins and the critical necessity for these people to relate this history to future generations.
Moses, the man who told God that he was ‘deficient in speech,’ when asked to approach the Pharaoh in Egypt, is now eloquent, combining his own words with those of God. Parsha Ekev begins: “And it will be, because you will heed these ordinances, keep and perform them, that the Lord, your God, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness which He swore to your forefathers”(1).
With precise detail, Moses enumerates the many sins of the Israelites during their forty-year sojourn in the desert. With meticulous clarity, he discusses how the people complained of the lack of variety in their food, selectively remembering the abundance of fruit and vegetables in Egypt but forgetting that they were slaves who were forced to endure back-breaking labor.
Moses inspires the rapt attention of the Children of Israel as he tells the story of the incident of the ‘Golden Calf’ and Aaron’s apparent complicity in this sin of idolatry. Moses then relates the rebellion of Korach and the punishment which he suffered for his arrogance.
In a dramatic shift of the narrative, Moses tells the Children of Israel about the land which they will be inheriting: “The Lord, your God, is bringing you to a good land; a land with brooks of water, fountains, wheat, barley, vines, figs and pomegranates; this is a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity…you will lack for nothing”(2).
“And now O Israel, this is what the Lord demands of you: to walk in His ways, to love Him, and to worship the Lord, your God with all your heart and soul” (3).
Moses continues: “This mighty and awesome God will show no favor, all will be treated equally; He implores you to care for the orphans and the widows, love the stranger, as does He, to provide him bread and clothing, as needed”(4).
In the most profound and prophetic way, Moses repeats God’s words: “You shall embrace the stranger, for you were once strangers in Egypt”(5).
Moses implores the Children of Israel: “You shall teach all of these words to your children, and they to their children” (6)
Parsha Ekev is considered to be the ‘language of love.’ According to historian and philosopher Simon May: “If love in the Western world has a founding text: that text is evident in the fifth and last Book of the Torah”(7). Further, Harry Redner wrote: “The biblical ‘love of a stranger’ is a unique development of the Judaic religion and unlike any to be encountered outside of it”(8).
(1) DEUTERONOMY (7:12)
(2) DEUTERONOMY (8:7-9)
(3) DEUTERONOMY (10:12)
(4) DEUTERONOMY (10:17-18)
(5) DEUTERONOMY (10:19)
(6) DEUTERONOMY (11:14-19)
(7) “Love A History,” Simon May (Yale University Press)
(8) “Ethical Life: The Past and Present of Ethical Culture,” Harry Redner (Rowan and Littlefield Press), NY, NY