Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Ekev
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicated in honor of

Alis Salem dau. Of Grecia

Parashat Ekev

Parashat “Shema” and Parashat “Vehaya Im Shamoa”

Parashiot Shema Israel and Vehaya im shamoa contain the indispensable principles of the special nature of living in the Land of Israel. Therefore, Moshe teaches the people of Israel these Parashiot at the threshold of The Promised Land.


Rabbi S. Yossef Weitzen

Av 5761
A. What is the difference between Parashat Va`ethanan and Parashat Ekev?
Humash Devarim opens with a long speech of Moshe Rabenu, a speech which spreads over more than three parashiot. Let us try to find some order in this long speech.
Parashat Devarim opens with a historical review which leads to the concluding message that Moshe is not going to cross the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. Instead, Yehoshu`a is the one who is going to lead the people of Israel into Eretz Israel. The central event being told about in Parashat Devarim is the sin of the Spies.
However, when we read Parashat Va`ethanan and Parashat Ekev, we find it difficult to see the difference between these two Parashiot. On the face of it, two of them are calling the people of Israel to be loyal to the orders of the Torah also after Moshe is gone. Is there any special topic for each of these Parashiot?

Parashat Va`ethanan closes with the chapter concerning "Shema Israel". Parashat Ekev - with the chapter concerning "Vehaya Im Shamoa". These parashiot are supposed to contain the gist of Parashiot Va`ethanan and Ekev. We have to recite them twice a day in order to remember Moshe Rabenu’s long speech. Why should Prashat Va`ethanan end with the chapter of "Shema" and Parashat Ekev with the chapter of "Vehaya Im Shamoa"

B. Baal Peor
Parashat Va`ethanan begins with mentioning the sin of Baal-Peor. Afterwards, most of the parasha deals with the revelation of Sinai. What is the connection between these two issues?

We can say that Parashat Va`ethanan is the parasha of signing the covenant between G-od and us. The Torah warns us from the connection with the Goyim. Am Israel is going to enter Eretz Israel, where it will meet the nations of the Land of Canaan and of the surrounding lands. There is a danger that the People of Israel might be influenced by the culture of those nations.

The sin which represents this influence is Baal-Peor. The People of Israel moves in the desert for forty years as an isolated people, without any kind of relationship with other peoples. At the end of the fortieth year we approach the Land of Israel and start meeting the peoples there. Our first contact with Amon and Moav knocks us down. Going after Baal-Peor is betraying G-od. In Parashat Pinehas we have already dealt with the question of why we meet the concept of jealousy in the context of Baal-Peor more than with other sins. After all, many sin were done during the long journey in the Sinai desert, some of them took place in public, in front of the whole people. Why does the concept of jealousy appear in Baal-Peor?

The reason is simple: All the other sins were not done to the eyes of other nations. Therefore, they are considered as being done "at home". The first time the People of Israel meets other nations is when they are approaching the Promised Land. Here, Israel resembles a wife of a man who runs into another man - does she go after him or does she remain loyal to her husband? Going after the Goyim is like being disloyal to one’s husband. Here, therefore, as in the chapter concerning the Sotah, the husband is jealous for his wife.

C. The revelation of Sinai - exclusiveness
It takes remembering the revelation of Sinai in order to survive Baal-Peor. At Sinai the covenant between G-od and the People of Israel was signed. The Torah stresses the uniqueness of the nature of this covenant. While other nations may have double-loyalty, the relationship of G-od and Israel is characterized by exclusiveness. Other nations may worship many gods. At Sinai, The Nation of Israel has learnt that there is no way to join idolatry with the service of Hashem.

Devarim Ch. 4:
(35) Unto thee it was shewed that that thou mightest know that the Eternal he is God; there is none else beside him:
(39) Thou shalt know this day, and consider it in thy heart, that the Eternal he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: There is none else:

D. Shema Israel
Parashat Va`ethanan prepares the People of Israel toward the contact with the other nations. When they come to Eretz Israel, The Pillars of Cloud and Fire, that went before the Children of Israel in the wilderness, are suspended. The Devine barrier between Israel and other peoples is no more there, and we are demanded to create a new one. We do it every day e by the recitation of Shema.

Shema Israel reminds us of Sinai not as a one-time but as a continuous event. In the recitation of Shema we declare each and every day "G-od is one". The continuation of Shema Israel is the Mitzva of loving G-od and the personal commitment to remain loyal, under any circumstances, to the covenant of love between G-od and the nation of Israel: And thou shalt love the Eternal thy God, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy intensity" (6,5). This message goes along with us wherever we turn - when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and thou liest down, and when thou risest up" (6,7).
Shema Israel is the parasha that conserves the covenant made at Sinai. It is suitable, therefore, that the end of "Va`ethanan" will contain some orders about how to treat the peoples inhabit ting the Land of Israel:

Devarim 6, 14-15:
Ye shall not go after other god, of the gods of the peoples which are round about you:
For the Eternal thy God is a jealous God among you lest the wrath of the Eternal thy God glow against thee and exterminate thee from off the face of the ground:

This command is addressed mainly to the first generation of the people coming into the Land. The meeting with the peoples there is the test-point: If the people of Israel would get into the Land , exterminate the peoples living there and turn the land into kind of a wilderness in which we would be isolated from all the other nations - there is no danger of abandoning our covenant with G-od. But if the first generation fails to build the barrier between them and the other nations, a barrier of Iron might be created between them and their Father in Heaven.

Devarim Ch. 7:
(2) And when the Eternal thy God shall have given them before you, and thou shalt have smitten them, thou shalt utterly doom them to destruction; thou shou shalt make no covenant with them, nor be gracious unto them:
(3) Neither shalt thou intermarry with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
(4) For he will turn thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods. So will the wrath of the Eternal glow against you, and exterminate the suddenly:
(5) But thus shall ye do to them; ye shall pull down their altars, and brake down their monuments , and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire:
(6) For thou art a holy people unto the Eternal thy God; the Eternal thy God hath chosen thee to be a people of select portion unto himself, from all the peoples onto the face of the ground;

E. "Then thine heart be exalted...
Parashat Ekev presents another challenge: The People of Israel will come and inherit the Land. G-od brings us to Eretz Israel, a land which will be kind to us. We shall prosper there. Experiencing economical prosperity may cause haughtiness. And the way from this to forgetfulness of G-od is very short. Naturally, this is not the problem of the first generation of the comers to the Land of Canaan but of the following ones, who feel economically confident and comfortable there.

Devarim Ch. 8:
(11) Take heed that thou forget not the Eternal thy god, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his ordinances, which I command thee this day:
(12) Lest when thou hast eaten and art satisfied, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein:
(13) And when thy herds and thy flocks increase, and thy silver and thy gold is increased, and all that thou hast is increased:
(14) Then thy heart be exalted, and thou forget the Eternal thy God, who brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the land of servants:

How can one avoid this sin? Moshe gives the answer in Parashat Ekev

F. When thou hast eaten and art satisfied...
There are three way to deal with the danger of haughtiness: firstly, there should be a command which would keep us from falling in the sin of forgetfulness; secondly, there should be a direct treatment of the thought of haughtiness; and thirdly, the causes of the sin of forgetfulness should be removed.
All of these ways are mentioned in Parashat Ekev:
Firstly, we are commanded of the grace (bircat ha-mazon) after each eating:
When thou hast eaten and art satisfied, then thou shalt bless the Eternal thy God for the good land which he hath given thee (8,10).

G. Remember, and forget not
The second way is that of the teaching of moral, which makes a person more humble and aware of his true character. In our Parasha Moshe reminds the people of some of its failures during the journey in the wilderness:

Ch. 9:
(5) Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thy heart, dost thy go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Eternal thy God doth dispossess them from before the, and that he may perform the word which the Eternal sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
(6) Know, therefore that the Eternal thy God giveth thee not this land to possess it for thy righteousness, for thou art a stiffnecked people:
(7) Remember, and forget not, how thou madest angry the Eternal thy God in the desert; from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the Eternal:
(8) Also in Horeb ye made the Eternal angry so that the Eternal was wrath with you to have exterminated you:

Apart from recalling the sins, we have to remember that all our richness was given to us by G-od:

Ch. 10:
(21) He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that had done for thee these great and fearful things, which thine eyes have seen:
(22) Thy fathers went down into Egypt with three-score and ten souls, and now the Eternal thy God hath made thee as the stars of heaven for multitude:

H. A land which the Eternal thy G-od careth for.
The reason for forgetfulness of G-od is the plenty of the Land of Israel. As long as one attributes this plenty to Hashem, not only that it does not remove him away from G-od, but it bring him nearer. Every gift given to a person from G-od is a sign of a radiance of divine countenance to that person. But if one regards this plenty merely as a natural phenomenon, it causes forgetfulness of G-od.
Therefore says the Torah that Eretz Israel is unique in that sense that one is able to recognize its prosperity as of Devine origin.

Ch. 11:
(10) For the land whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as the garden of green herbs:
(11) But the land (12) A land which the Eternal thy G-od careth for: the eyes of the Eternal thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year:

Eretz Israel is different than the land of Egypt. In Egypt one may easily fall into the deception that the plenty is natural. The Land of Israel, by the nature of its climate, declares that the plenty is from G-od. There is not any need of great human effort in order to water the land, but at the same time, the success and plenty are up to G-od.

I. Vehaya im shamoa
The chapter of "Vehaya im shamoa" deepens that point. Forgetfulness of Hashem springs out of the material confidence and the general feeling that one may get along without appealing to G-od. Parashat "Vehaya im shamoa", the second chapter of the recitation of the Shema, tells us that the meaning of our obedience to G-od is that we follow the command to "to serve him with all yoir heart", which is - according to Our Sages - the Mitzva of prayer.

A prayer is a way of expressing that we cannot achieve plenty unless we turn to G-od. The chapter goes on to teach us that Erets Israel is, in a sense, like the desert. One may not assume that there is natural blessing in it. Indeed, when the People of Israel were exiled from the land, it actually turned into a desert. The prosperity of this land is not determined by natural factors but rather by spiritual and moral ones.
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