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109http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2012/08/Rabbi-Lyon%27s-Blog---08_10_2012
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 08_10_2012
08/08/2012 08:28 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
August 10, 2012

 

Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25) is the name of this week’s Torah portion and it includes more of the final speeches by Moses to the Israelite people. In 8:7-10, we learn what the Land will provide the Israelites when they enter it and if they observe God’s commandments.

                “For the Eternal your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine copper.”

                We read in this list the resources to sustain the people. There is water enough for the people and to irrigate the fields. The soil is rich in nutrients to grow and harvest wheat and barley. In addition, there are grapes, figs, fruits, olive trees and honey, all products for ordinary and sacred uses. Wine from the fruit of the vine for sanctification, olive oil to light the sacred lamps, and even honey that will later be associated with the sweetness of the New Year. Overall, the expectations are high for the people. There will be plenty of food and they will lack nothing, not even clothes and general provisions. Furthermore, the land and hills will provide metals and minerals to shape tools for use in the fields, and iron, used to make instruments of war for defense.

                The Torah doesn’t finish without making clear how to use all that God provides them. In Deuteronomy 8:11, the section concludes, “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Eternal your God for the good land given to you.”

                An examination of the Hebrew grammar makes it clear that the people should eat and satisfy themselves. They should nourish their bodies and grow strong on the produce the land provides and the blessings God bestows on them. “V’achalta” means you shall eat. “V’savata” means you shall satisfy yourselves. In layman’s terms that means take a big plate and have seconds. And, then, “u-veirachta” you shall bless the Lord your God. That is, now give thanks.

                Today, though we begin our meals with appropriate blessings and words of thanks for the food we are about to enjoy, most often with HaMotzi for a meal that includes bread, we are also obligated to give thanks after we have eaten in accordance with what we read here. Birkat HaMazon, is the prayer of gratitude that we recite after a meal. You might recall it from your days at Jewish summer camp or because your children come home singing it by rote. It’s customary at camp to conclude every meal this way. Birkat HaMazon (Blessing of Sustenance) includes the words we find in this Torah portion.

                The Torah portion provides a positive outlook on the resources we enjoy from the earth and from all that God gives us. But, after we enjoy them and nourish our bodies with them, we are obligated to give thanks to the One who provides them. To do otherwise leads us to take such resources and luxuries for granted. Whether it’s a full Birkat HaMazon or a brief blessing to give thanks, we should not take for granted that we have what so many others in Houston and around the world struggle to find for themselves every day. Thousands of children go hungry. Their plight should move us to give thanks for what we have and to help them find nourishment, too. There is enough in God’s world for all the children of the earth. One day, every child should have the privilege to give thanks to God.

                On this Shabbat, give thanks for the blessings in your life, for the abundance you have come to know, and for the privilege to help others have reasons to give thanks, too.

From my family to yours, Shabbat Shalom.

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