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Ekev ~ 5774 ~ עקב
If Israel observes even the “minor” mitzvot, Moshe promises that we will be the most blessed of the nations of earth. Furthermore, we will conquer Canaan little by little, so that the land will not be overrun by wild animals in the interim period between conquest and settling the land. Israel is again warned to burn all idols and Moshe stresses that the Torah is indivisible and not open to partial observance. Moshe describes the Land of Israel as a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil-yielding
olives and date-honey.
Moshe cautions Israel not to be haughty and think that their success in Israel is a result of their own powers or vigor; rather, it was G-d who gave them wealth and success. G-d didn’t drive out the Canaanites because of Israel’s righteousness, rather because of the sins of the Canaanites.
Moshe details the events after G-d spoke the Ten Commandments at Sinai, culminating in his bringing down the second set of Tablets on Yom Kippur. Aaron’s passing is recorded as is the elevation of the levi’im to G-d’s ministers. Moshe points out that the 70 souls who went down to Egypt have now become like the stars of the heaven in abundance. After specifying the great virtues of the Land of Israel, Moshe speaks the second paragraph of the Shema, conceptualizing the blessings that accompany keeping mitzvot and the curse that results from non-observance.
MAFTIR Deuteronomy 11:22-25 ~ page 793
HAFTARAH Isaiah 49:14—51:3 ~ page 794
The exiles are assured that G-d has not forsaken them. They will hasten back to mother Zion which will be rid of the enemy and teem with the returning multitudes. Israel will be assisted and supported in its restoration by the people and rulers of foreign nations who will pay homage. Isaiah himself (or, perhaps, the righteous remnant) had bravely preached G-d’s message even though he was persecuted and humiliated, but he had been confident that G-d would prove him right and condemn the nonbelievers. The righteous remnant need have no fear of the future, for they need only recall how a mighty nation had sprung from Abraham and Sarah. The barren wastes of Zion would be transformed into a Garden of Eden where the sounds of joy, gladness and thanksgiving would be heard.
Parashah Study Questions
1. What were the “wonders”, “strong hand” and “outstretched arm” that the Jewish people saw in Egypt (v. 7:19)?
2. The midrash on verse 8:4 teaches that during the 40 years in the desert, the clothing of the children grew with them. What possible moral or ethical lesson should we learn from this midrash (the true intent of midrash)?
3. Commentaries state that Aaron was punished for his role in the golden calf with the death of his two sons. Does this bother you at all (v. 9:20)?
4. Since it is accepted that “serving Hashem with the heart” (v. 11:13) refers to “prayer”, why did animal sacrifice exist at the same time?
5. After Tisha B’Av, how are we supposed to act? What events are supposed to be enhanced? Which diminished?