7/8 Aug: Eikev :Shabbat comes in 8:24 pm, ends 9:31 pm
Parashat Eikev: Not On Bread Alone
This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Eikev, includes the description of our wanderings in the wilderness and dependence on manna with the statement ‘man cannot live on bread alone’ (Deuteronomy 8:3). The manna is an incredible symbol of resilience and recognition of life’s fragility. We were given this miraculous bread, but told only to gather enough for each day, and no more. There was no ‘backup’ manna. Anything extra that was taken would go bad. The people had to learn to live a day at a time.
I am stuck with this image this year about the uncertainty that we live with. Many of us are consumed with thoughts of tomorrow, and for good reason: we do not feel secure. This is also true of our ancestors in the wilderness. Without the luxury of land, without permanent homes, the future must have consumed their thoughts. However, with this act of relying on the manna on a day-to-day basis, the Holy One taught them that awareness of fragility does not have to result in fear. It can also result in gratitude. Being grateful for what we have today – the metaphorical manna in our hands – is a powerful religious act.
It’s also a difficult one. It takes practice. The manna symbol did not only happen once; it occurred daily. Each day, being grateful for the manna in their hands built up the practice of gratitude for our ancestors.
May we learn from the experiences of our ancestors, and learn to hold today’s manna with gratitude, resilience, and peace.
So in terms of a punishment for the people of Noah’s time, the flood and the destruction of all living things does seem a bit extreme. One of my rabbis, Rabbi Brad Artson argues, that is exactly the point the Torah is trying to make.
Destruction, even when it comes from the God who is “slow to anger and abounding in kindness” bursts beyond any manageable or fair limitations. Even punishments, originally intended to be measured and reasonable, provoke unanticipated suffering and hardship.
Rabbi Paul Arberman.
Abraham Joshua Heschel believed that Adam’s sin was primarily in hiding from God and from himself. This is not, in Heschel’s eyes, an abstract idea; we all hide from God and from ourselves. Heschel expresses it thus in the third verse of his poem I and Thou:
” Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,
hear My own speech – a distant, quiet voice – in people’s weeping,
as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden. ”
Heschel is describing a personal experience in which he has hidden from himelf, his essence absorbed within society. His face is masked, hidden from view, making the idea to “know thyself” impossible.
I’m not sure why we hide from ourselves so well when we are young — or perhaps we just don’t take the time to think through who we are — but I can say definitively, that one of the great joys of getting older is the unmasking — getting to know yourself — what you actually enjoy or don’t enjoy doing.
Written by Rabbi Paul Arberman