Torah Portion

The Portion of Eikev

Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Bible Portion
The Portion of Eikev

The Portion of Eikev

Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25

This Torah portion carries a promise of Godly assistance in conquering the Land of Israel and blessings for following His commands. Moses warns the people that they will be punished for disregarding God’s word, and reminds them of several incidents in which they had sinned, but mostly focuses on the good that God will bring them if they keep His laws. It also deals heavily with the bounty of the Promised Land.

Have no Fear, God is Here

Deuteronomy 7:12-26

Moses tells the people that God promises to bless them if they keep His commandments. If the people live up to their end of the covenant, God says He will give them health, wealth, bounty and fertility. He will chase away their enemies and give them victory.

Should the people worry that the enemy is too numerous, Moses reassures them God will be by their side, fighting on their behalf. He Who rained havoc down on Egypt will visit the same tribulations upon Israel’s enemies. God will also only run them out of the land little by little, not all at once. The people will be left to destroy the idols of the enemy.

The Israel Bible asks why it would be comforting for the people to know God will expel their enemies little by little, rather than all at once. The answer, the Israel Bible explains, is in the second half of the verse, where it says, “lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.” If the land is abandoned, it will be taken over by wild animals, making it harder for the Israelites to settle. So, too, in modern times, the return to Israel has taken place little by little.

Points to Ponder

Moses says God will chase away Israel’s enemies, then adds in verse 20 that He will send the hornet among them. Why do you think this would be more terrifying? What could the hornet represent?

Lessons from the Desert

Deuteronomy 8:1-20

Moses reviews some of the Israelites’ experiences in the desert, framing them as lessons God wished to teach the people, like a father teaches a son. God made the people hunger so He could feed them manna. He caused their clothes not to wear out and their feet not to tire.

Moses adds that God is bringing them to a land of plenty, with water sources and precious metals, with wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranate, olive oil and date honey. It is a land where nobody needs to hunger. When the people eat and are satisfied, they should be moved to thank God for the bounty. Moses warns they should not become complacent, thinking it is their own strength that provided for them. Rather, they should remember God is the one who took them out of Egypt and provided for them, even in this land. If the people forget this lesson, they will suffer the same fate as the nations which God is driving from the land.

The Israel Bible points out that when the Torah says the people will not hunger in their new land, it is not referring only to a hunger for physical bread. Rather, it is also a reference to the Torah itself, which is compared metaphorically to bread. As the prophet says, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). In the Holy Land, the promise of sustenance is spiritual as well as physical.

Points to Ponder

How do you think the experiences of the desert teach the people the lessons Moses says God wants the Israelites to learn?

Chastised for Past Sins

Deuteronomy 9:1-10:11

Moses tells the people to bear in mind it is not for the sake of their own righteousness that He is driving their enemies out of the land for them, but for the sake of the enemies’ wickedness and His love for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Moses reminds the people of their mistakes in the desert.

Moses tells the story of the Golden Calf from his perspective. While Moses was atop Mount Sinai, neither eating nor drinking for forty days while he received God’s Torah, the people angered God by creating a golden calf. God wanted to destroy them, but Moses interceded on their behalf, returning to the mountain for forty more days without food or water. Moses also prayed for Aaron, whom God wished to destroy as well for taking an active role in creating the calf. Moses reminds the people that he destroyed the calf, burnt it and ground it to a fine dust, then threw the dust into the water.

Other incidents Moses mentions include sins at Ta’vera, Massa and Kivrot Hata’ava, as well as the sin of the spies. For the latter, Moses also prayed forty days and forty nights that God should not wipe out the nation, convincing Him that it would undermine His reputation in Egypt.

By the Golden Calf, Moses tells the people that God had him carve new stone tablets to replace the ones he broke. Moses also built an ark to store them, as they carried the word of God Himself.

Moses reminds the people as well of the death of Aaron and the selection of the Levites to minister to God.

This passage opens with the statement that the people are about to cross over the Jordan River. The word Hebrew, Ivrit, comes from the same root as the word for crossing over, oveir. Likewise, the Israel Bible reminds us, Abraham was known as Avraham Ha’Ivri, because he came from the other side of the river and because his monotheistic notions were “other”. Today, his heirs continue to serve as the world’s moral compass, a role the modern State of Israel takes very seriously.

Points to Ponder

Why do you think Moses feels the need to remind the people of their past mistakes?

Love God as He Loves You

Deuteronomy 10:12-11:12

All God wants from the people, Moses says, is for them to walk in His ways and follow His commandments. Only their forefathers of all nations did God choose for His own, and their descendants for all eternity.

For this reason, Moses says, the people should circumcise the skin of their hearts and open themselves to God’s will. After all, God is not a man who can be bribed or swayed. He judges the wicked and protects the weak, so should the Israelites work to protect the weak. They should be kind to the stranger among them because they were once strangers in Egypt. As the Israel Bible points out, it is incumbent upon the people, the one-time slaves who have become masters, to treat those in their care better than they were once treated, as they know how it feels.

Remember, Moses reiterates, you saw God’s great might. Jacob went down to Egypt with a mere seventy people and a great nation arose. Moses reminds the people of the miracles God wrought on their behalf, from the plagues to the splitting of the sea to the punishment of Korah and his followers. Therefore, it behooves the Children of Israel to follow God’s word meticulously, that He may prolong their days upon the land which He has promised them.

This land is not like Egypt, Moses tells the nation. In Egypt, one has to just put his foot in the earth and drag water to his crops. In the Promised Land, however, the eyes of God are on the land from the beginning of the year to the end of the year, and the land is dependent on rain for irrigation.

Points to Ponder

The end of this passage clearly implies that for these reasons, Israel is better than Egypt. Why, though, do you think it is better to be dependent on rain rather than be able to irrigate the land at will and with ease?

If You Do…and If You Don’t…

Deuteronomy 11:13-25

This final passage of our portion of the week deals with the concept of crime and punishment. Simply put, if the people hearken to God’s words, He will provide rain in its season and bounty in the fields. However, if the people allow their hearts to lead them astray, He will become angry with them and stop the rains and thus the growth of the fields. The people will quickly perish from the land under such circumstances.

So that they never forget, God orders that these words be taken to heart and worn between their eyes and on their arms. He tells them, too, to teach it to their children and to write it on their doorposts.

If the people do these things and follow in God’s ways, then no man will be able to stand in their way and God will grant them all the blessings He has promised.

Points to Ponder

This passage bears a striking resemblance to the first passage of the Shema prayer mentioned in last week’s portion. In fact, it makes up the second paragraph of the prayer as recited daily and as included in both the phylacteries and the mezzuzah placed on Jewish doorways. What do you think this passage comes to add to the first one (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)?

The Israel Bible Team

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