The work of Israeli artists

Parashat * EKEV * 



Torah institute

Rabbi Isaac Luria, the famed Kabbalist of 16th century Safed, posed the following question: how can the soul, which is purely spiritual, be nourished from physical food? How is it possible that food enables the soul to remain bound to the body?

Two Blessings from the Torah
Most blessings are of rabbinical origin. There are, however, two exceptions to this rule — blessings that are derived directly from the Torah itself. The first is Birkat Hamazon, recited after meals; the second is the blessing said before learning Torah.

God promised that if we keep the mitzvot and sincerely love Him, we will benefit from timely rain and bountiful crops:
"I will give plants in your field for your animals; and you will eat and be satiated." (Deut. 11:15)
Rav Abba Aricha, the celebrated third-century scholar, called attention to the order of the verse: first the animals eat, and then the people.
"Rav taught: one is not permitted to eat before he has placed food before his animals." (Berachot 40)

The Golden Calf (watercolor circa 1896–1902 by James Tissot)

"When you eat and are sated, you must bless the Lord your God for the good land that He has given you." (Deut. 8:10)
The Torah does not specify the exact text of Birkat Hamazon, the blessing recited after eating. The Talmud, however, informs us that it contains four blessings, authored over a period of a thousand years:

The Torah clearly expects us to feel both love and awe for God:
"And now, Israel, what does God want of you? Only that you remain in awe of the Lord your God, following in all His paths and loving Him." (Deut. 10:12)
What is awe of God? Why is this trait so important?

The Blessings of Torah Scholars
The Talmud (Berachot 50a) gives a litmus test to determine if an individual is truly a Torah scholar: listen to how he recites berachot (blessings). Clearly, when berachot are recited sincerely, they reflect a proper outlook on life and help instill important traits such as gratitude to God. What is less obvious is that even the detailed laws for blessings reflect fundamental concepts of the Torah. For this reason, Torah scholars are punctilious in their blessings.

What is the ideal? Should we strive to dedicate ourselves totally to Torah study? Or should we divide our time between Torah study and an occupation?
The Sages debated this issue on the basis on an apparent contradiction between two verses. On the one hand, we are exhorted to study Torah constantly: "This book of Torah shall not depart from your mouth; you shall meditate in them day and night" (Joshua 1:8).

File:Tissot The Gathering of the Manna (color).jpg

Scripture descends to speak to us, using metaphor to reveal the holy. In Parashat Eikev, we find references to the "mighty hand and the outstretched arm" by which God liberated the Israelites from Egypt (7:19). When the Torah uses the human body as a code to decipher God, we glimpse through ourselves the presence of the One in whose image we are created.

File:Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 079.jpg
Moses with the Tablets of the 
Law (1659 painting by Rembrandt)

Moses continues with his speech to the Israelites, "It will come to pass as a result of your hearing these Ten Commandments and carrying them out with care, that God will keep with you this covenant.
God will love you and bless you and multiply you. God will bless the fruit of your body, your soil, grain, wine, oil and animals. You will be blessed more than all the peoples."
"But," Moses warns, "you will have to annihilate many people; your eye shall not feel any mercy for them--so that you will not serve their gods--for this is a trap for you. Don't fear them, for God, your God, is a great and awesome God. God will deliver them up before you and you shall destroy them. The images of their gods shall burn in fire. Do not lust after the silver and the gold that is upon them and take it for yourself, for it is an abomination to God.
File:The Golden Calf.jpg
The Golden Calf (illustration from a Bible card
 published 1907 by the Providence Lithograph Company)

 from Torah Topics for Today
from Hillel
from Jewish Outreach Initiative
 from CLAL
from Social Action
from AJWS
from Orthodox Union
from JTS

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם
צוּר כָּל הָעוֹלָמִים, צַדִּיק בְּכָל הַדּוֹרוֹת
 הָאֵל הַנֶּאֱמָן, הָאוֹמֵר וְעוֹשֶׂה, הַמְדַבֵּר
 וּמְקַיֵּם, שֶׁכָּל דְּבָרָיו אֱמֶת וָצֶדֶק
נֶאֱמָן אַתָּה הוּא אָדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ וְנֶאֱמָנִים
 דְּבָרֶיךָ וְדָבָר אֶחָד מִדְּבָרֶיךָ אָחוֹר לֹא 
ֿיָשׁוּב רֵיקָם כִּי אֵל מֶלֶךְ נֶאֱמָן וְרַחֲמָן אָתָּה
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי הָאֵל הַנֶּאֱמָן בְּכָל דְּבָרָיו.

The Haftarah selection is from Isaiah, 49:14-51:3.
"God has forsaken me
" Zion sighs, "

my Sovereign has forgotten me

" (49:14).

This lament opens the second of seven haftarot of consolation, marking the seven weeks (and seven Shabbatot ) between Tisha B'Av and Rosh Hashanah. Though the first verse offers little consolation, the rest of the haftarah responds to this sad statement with positive, hopeful promises of the future redemption.
The narrator of this haftarah, Isaiah, lived during the exile of the Israelites in Babylon, after the destruction of the First Temple. His writings are reflective of this, fluctuating between hope and despair. 
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