By Joy Scott, Am Haskalah Congregant Last week’s Torah Parsha (SHEMOT) ended with Moses and Aaron both discouraged, as the Pharaoh of Egypt denied their request to free the...
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 in last week’s Parsha (V’ETCHANAN). Moses clearly understands the risks for this new generation. They may not remember the miracles, which God had performed, to sustain their forefathers 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 their children and grandchildren.
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 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).
In extreme detail, Moses enumerates the many sins of the Israelites, while living in the desert. He talks about how the people complained of the lack of variety in their food, selectively remembering the abundance of fruits 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 discusses the incident of the ‘Golden Calf’, and Aaron’s complicity in this sin of idolatry. He describes the rebellion of Korach, and the punishment he suffered for his arrogance.
In a dramatic shift of the narrative, Moses tells the people about the land they will be inheriting: “The Lord, your God is bringing you to a good land, a land with brooks of water, fountains, wheat and 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: “The mighty and awesome God, who will show no favor, nor will He take a bribe; He executes the judgment of the orphan and the widow; He loves the stranger, to give him bread and clothing” (4).
In the most profound and prophetic way, Moses repeats God’s words: “You, too, shall love 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 (EKAV) 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 Hebrew” (7). Further, philosopher, Harry Redner wrote: “The biblical ‘love of one’s neighbor’ 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)