Deuteronomy 7:12 to 11:25
Moses tells the Israelites that they are about to enter a land of plenty. But, they must always remember that success in the land is a result of the partnership including their efforts and the resources God has provided. Both are needed for success.
This week’s text continues the second address to the people as they are about to enter the Promised Land. Moses describes the land to the people: “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 lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine copper.” (Deut. 8:7-9)
One can see many similarities to the Jewish communities of today. After generations of stettles, poverty, anti-Semitism, and pogroms… the Jewish people are experiencing a new Golden Age with the birth of the State of Israel, and unprecedented freedom in much of the Western nations.
Moses tells the people that complacency in this new land can lead to their downfall. He asks, “What does your God Adonai demand of you? Only this: to revere your God Adonai, to walk only in divine paths, to love and to serve your God Adonai with all your heart and soul, keeping Adonai’s commandments and laws, which I [Moses] enjoin upon you today, for your good.” (Deut.10:12-13) With all the success the Israelites are about to enjoy, they must always remember God Adonai and the role that God has in their continuing success.
The same advice applies to the contemporary world. We must remember God, keep the holidays and traditions of our parents and grandparents that have meaning to us, and follow the laws and commandments that help us live the Jewish lives of the present day…. For our own good.
In the times of Moses, if the people turned from Adonai, if they forget the holidays and traditions, and didn’t keep the commandments and laws… the faith would not survive.
The same is true today…. With success came assimilation. People are forgetting their past, their traditions, and their faith. Many turn to other religions – other gods. The knowledgeable Jewish population decreases. And, as a result, the strength that created the Jewish people may be diminishing.
In this parsha, Moses offers two ideas that will help the people remember their past… and to realize that to have success there must be a partnership between Adonai and the people themselves.. Without people who keep the faith, the Jewish community will disappear.
First. Moses tells the people (and us through Torah): “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to your God Adonai for the good land given to you.” (Deut. 8:10) This is the basis for the Birkat HaMazon – the prayer recited after a meal. Through this prayer, it is hoped that the people will always remember that food (and all the other resources enjoyed) are made available from God. Without God’s creations of animals, plants, fertile land the objects we enjoy would not be possible.
Next, Torah reminds us that God “shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing food and clothing.” Then we are commanded that “You must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deut.10:17-19) In later commandments, the Israelites are commanded to remember the needy, the fatherless, and the widow. To have continued success we must avoid complacency, remember that success is not the result of the efforts of a single person – but the combined efforts of a community, and lastly, we must remember our humble past.
Moses tells the people to remember that success is not only the result of one’s efforts, but.the result of a successful partnership between God and the people.