Moses tells the Isrealites that they are about to enter a land with all the resources they will need. But, they must remember all that God has done for them and that their future riches would not be possible without the assistance of the Eternal.
Continuing his discourses to the Isrealites as they ready themselves to enter the Promised Land, Moses tells the people: “And it will be because you’ll listen to these judgments and observe and do them that YHWH, your God, will keep the covenant and kindness for you that he swore to your fathers. And He’ll love you and bless you and multiply you and bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land; your grain and your wine and your oil, your cattle’s offspring and your flock’s young, on the land that He swore to your fathers to give to you.” (Deut. 7:12-13 – translated from Richard Friedman, Commentary on the Torah)
Moses then reminds the people of what God did for them by freeing them from slavery in Egypt, and providing for all their needs during their wilderness travels. Now the people are preparing to move into a country that has all the resources to meet their needs. After some time, Moses tells the people they will say: “My power and my hand’s strength made this wealth for me. Then you shall remember YHWH, your God, because He is the one who gave you power to make wealth so as to uphold His covenant that He swore to your fathers – as it is this day.” (Deut. 8:17-18)
But, with his next breath, Moses sees the day when the Eternal will be forgotten: “And it will be, if you’ll forget YHWH, your God, and you’ll go after other gods and serve them and bow to them, I call witness regarding you today and you’ll perish!” (Deut. 8:19)
Rabbi Moshe ben Chaim Alshekh (16th century Turkish Biblical commentator) expressed the same idea. He saw “the person who enjoys exceptional wealth and apparent good fortune must deal with powerful temptations. It is difficult not to incline toward arrogance and the feeling that one is the architect of one’s good fortune independent of God. These dangers often lead a person away from following God’s commandments.”
This process of moving away from these commandments “is gradual, almost imperceptible in its progress. It begins by observing the commandments with the expectation of some material reward. Next, one eats without giving thanks or credit to God. Finally, one takes the credit for success and bounty and then rejects God and turns to idol worship”….. Moses, says Rabbi Alshekh, “understood these dangers, and thus explains his guidelines to the people.” (Rabbi Alshekh as quoted in Harvey J. Fields, A Torah Commentary For Our Times, vol. 3, p. 121)
The words of Moses and Rabbi Moshe Alshekh apply today as much as they did when they were spoken. Many people today feel that their success was built only on personal efforts. After proclaiming their success, they turn the contemporary corporate gods and worship the almighty dollar. They will then do anything needed to increase wealth and success.
In today’s world it is easy to forget that any success we achieve is God-given … God created the world and all that is in it. Our successes are built on the building blocks made from God’s creations …. Then, we must also remember that our success is also built upon the efforts of others – parents, teachers, business associates, employees, and the contributions of others in one’s community.
In this week’s text Moses provides ways to help us remember the contributions of the Eternal….. “And you’ll eat and be full and bless YHVH, your God for the good land that He has given you.” (Deut. 8:10) These words provide the basis for the Jewish practice of birkat hammazon – grace after meals.But, this thought can also be applied to any success in our lives.
Then, later in the text, Moses reminds us to be like the Eternal and follow his ways: “Because YHWH, your God… won’t be partial and won’t take a bribe, doing judgment for an orphan and widow and loving an alien, to give him bread and a garment. So you shall love the alien, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Deut. 10:17-19) We should always remember that God created all the people of the world and the means for our success…. This success should be shared with others who may not have received the great successes that we may have received.
With these thoughts in mind, the prediction of Moses that the people will turn away from the Eternal will not come to pass will remain just a prediction … not reality.
The image “Man Choose Success” courtesy of Anoop Krishan as it appears on Freedigitalphotos.net