The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Eikev and is found in Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25. In this parasha Moses reiterates to the people that if they obey the commandments God will reward them. With God’s help, they will destroy the Canaanite nations, paying particular attention to wiping out all their idols. Moses calls on the Israelites to remember both the hardships of the wilderness years and how God provided for them during that time. Moses reminds them specifically not to forget their journey in the wilderness and how God provided for them in those hardships. He specifically reminds the people of the Golden Calf incident and how they forgot God. Moses again charges the Israelites to keep God’s commandments and teaches them the second paragraph of the Shema.
In the passage there are a couple of important points to note. First, Moses tells the people that they should not worship idols or bring them into their houses because they may become like the idols they worship. We do not have the same types of idols today, but we have many things that we place in our lives and in our homes, and we should ask ourselves, do these things help us become the type of person we want to become?
Second, Moses reminds the people that, when they go in and settle the land and become prosperous, they must remember that God is ultimately the one that has blessed them, and that they should thank God for the blessings they receive. In fact, it is in this passage which talks about thanking God after we have eaten and are satisfied, that we get the mitzvah to say a blessing after a meal as well as before it. Of course, one of the questions this passage raises is, “What if we are experiencing hard times and don’t feel blessed? What if the food we eat doesn’t satisfy? Should we still thank God for those blessings if they don’t really feel like blessings? The answer is that, yes, we can still praise God, because everything we do is imperfect and everything we experience is incomplete. When we thank God for the blessings we do have, regardless of how small, it helps us keep a positive framework of our situation and helps us work through them until our situations are better. Later we may realize that the blessings we thought were actually small made a big difference in a small way when we needed them.