Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25)

First, last week’s quick quiz: What are two other Sabbaths (besides Shabbat Nachamu) named after a haftarah? Answer:  Shabbat Chazon and Shabbat Shuvah.  And which 7 verses of the haftarah appear in Handel’s Messiah?  Answer: Isaiah 40: 1-4, 5, 9, and 11.

In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, Moses continues to try to convince the Israelites they should follow the Law.  He uses two routes of persuasion: the logical “if-then” of reward and punishment and flights of ecstatic oratory concerning all the miracles they’ve experienced – the Exodus, Sinai, miraculous food and water, even clothes that didn’t wear out – and the wonders of their new home, flowing with milk and honey.

Much is promised: fertility (personal, livestock, agricultural), no disease (including those nasty Egyptian diseases), military invincibility.  They will be loved and blessed by the Lord in a rich land.  But all this is conditional upon their observance of the Law.  Moses reminds them of the debacle of the Golden Calf and hard it was for him, after such astonishing disobedience, to persuade the Lord not to destroy them.

The Promised Land is presented as so much richer in resources than Egypt, “a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; 9 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.” (8:7-9).   Where Egypt depended upon the flooding of the Nile, Canaan “soaks up its water from the rains of heaven. 12 It is a land which the Lord your God looks after, on which the Lord your God always keeps His eye, from year’s beginning to year’s end.”(11:11-12)  They will eat and be satisfied and bless the Lord (8:10), implying both physical and spiritual satiety.

But they must not allow that sense of satisfaction to morph into a self-satisfied smugness (I am trying not to refer to yesterday’s GOP debates, but it’s really difficult).  They must remember that they are not the ultimate source of their prosperity, neither their efforts nor their inherent righteousness; thus, the command to bless the Lord immediately follows “eat and be satisfied.”

Moses seems to downplay what is expected of the Israelites: And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, keeping the Lord’s commandments and laws … Cut away, therefore, the thickening about your hearts (literally, “circumcise your hearts”) and stiffen your necks (idiom for “be stubborn”) no more. (from 10:12-16).  Moses implies that, if they will only open themselves up to the Lord, it will be easy to fulfill the Lord’s conditions.  After all, he hasn’t found it too difficult.  Of course, he’s Moses.  His humility prevents him from seeing how difficult this can be for the typical Israelite.

More helpfully, in what we have taken into the liturgy as the second paragraph of the Shema (11:13-21), a few specific tools are presented to help the Israelites remain aware of their duties: wearing words of the Law on the arm and forehead (tefillin), reciting them often and teaching them to the children; and putting them on the doorposts and gates (mezuzah).  A mezuzah contains the first two paragraphs of the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-911:13-21). Tefillin contain those verses plus Exodus 13:1-1011-16.  Even back then, it was recognized that just lecturing at people usually isn’t sufficient for them to really internalize what you want to teach them.

Shabbat shalom,



Miracle Cure

Doctor Bloom who was known for miraculous cures for arthritis had a waiting room full of people when a little old lady, completely bent over in half, shuffled in slowly, leaning on her cane. When her turn came, she went into the doctor’s office, and, amazingly, emerged within half an hour walking completely erect with her head held high.

A woman in the waiting room who had seen all this walked up to the little old lady and said, “It’s a miracle! You walked in bent in half and now you’re walking erect. What did that doctor do?”

She answered, “Miracle, shmiricle. He gave me a longer cane.”



On One Foot – July 9, 2006
Parshas Eikev, or The Fundamentals of Computer Programming:

IF (condition) 
THEN (statements)
[Else if (condition X) Then
(statements X)]
(else statements)



Never Satisfied 

Two friends met in the street. One looked sad and almost on the verge of tears. The other man said, “Hey my friend, how come you look like the whole world has caved in?”
The sad fellow said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me 50-thousand dollars.”
“That’s not bad at all…!”
“Hold on, I’m just getting started. Two weeks ago, a cousin I never knew kicked-the-bucket and left me 95-thousand, tax-free to boot.”
“Well, that’s great! I’d like that.”
“Last week, my grandfather passed away. I inherited almost a million.”
“So why are so glum?”
“This week – nothing!”

Self Help    Friday, May 11, 2012 – 1:11 PM

Abe goes into his local WHSmith bookshop and asks the saleswoman, “Excuse me, but where is the self-help section?”
She replies, “If I told you, sir, it would defeat the purpose.”

Jews can touch mezuzahs with impunity as hospital study shows prayer boxes do not spread viruses (shortened a bit)

 (Well, that’s reassuring. IGP)

BY REUVEN BLAU   NEW YORK DAILY NEWS  Wednesday, October 9, 2013, 5:39 PM

Thou shalt not spread germs.

Mezuzahs — prayer-filled boxes in doorframes that religious Jews touch upon entering a room — do not transmit viruses, says a group of doctors at Maimonides Medical Center, refuting a 2009 study suggesting the ritualistic touching was unleashing an 11th plague on the unsuspecting faithful.

The infectious disease experts initially believed the mezuzahs were vectors for dangerous germs and bacteria — and that religious Jews who touched the boxes and then kissed their fingers were spreading the unholy mess.

But after swabbing 100 of the hospital’s mezuzahs, they discovered the religious markers were actually not a serious source of cursed infections.  “There were some microbes that grew, but none that can cause an illness,” said Dr. Monica Ghitan, who worked on the study, which will be published in the Journal of Infection Control in the next few weeks.

Ghitan and her team’s research contradicted another Talmudic take on hospital mezuzahs: In 2009, a group of Israeli doctors studied 70 mezuzahs in Assaf Harofeh Hospital, finding a “significant bacterial load” on them.  Several even tested positive for fecal organisms and fungi, which, though they are God’s creatures, are pretty gross nonetheless. 

There was a simple reason for the brimstone: The staff at that hospital said it avoided cleaning the mezuzahs out of fear of ruining the religious artifact.

But at Maimonides, cleanliness is next to godliness: the hospital deploys aluminium prayer boxes — and the staff is instructed to clean with impunity, hospital officials said.  “And when the nurses wipe down the room they also clean the mezuzah,” said Rabbi Nathan Friedman. “They’ve been around for 4,000 years and we have yet to hear about someone getting sick.”


Top 10 Signs that the Guy on your Flight Putting on Tefillin is Really a Terrorist


Did you see this story? Can you believe it?

A U.S. Air flight headed from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport to Louisville, Kentucky, was diverted to Philadelphia, evacuated, and quarantined after a teenaged man on the flight wrapping himself in tefillin—the traditional Jewish phylactery—was mistaken for a teenaged man on the flight wrapping himself in something that could blow the plane up. Reportedly, a female flight attendant had never seen tefillin before (maybe she skipped that day of Hebrew School?). Flights at the relevant airports are unaffected—or so they say.

In order to prevent this from happening in the future, allow me to present:

The Top 10 Signs that the Guy on your Flight Putting on Tefillin is Really a Terrorist:

10) He is davening from The Bin-Laden Scroll Siddur.

9) He is flying from New York to Kentucky! What the hell is a frum guy going to Kentucky for?

8) He puts on 2 sets of tefillin: Rashi and then Rabeinu Bomb.

7) He claims he is on his way to opening the first kosher KFC in Kentucky. (Hi, I want to place an order. Could I get a bucket of chicken wings, and…uh…y’all got any more of that Matzo Ball Soup?”)

6) He doesn’t talk to anyone around him while he is praying. That’s a dead giveaway that he’s not a real Jew.

5) As he is putting on the tefillin on his arm and forehead he remarks, ‘Hey, at least know if the plane goes down, they’ll be able to find these black boxes.”

4) As he prepares to say the Amidah he asks, ‘Which way is Mecca?’

3) He is wearing one of those cardboard kippot you get at the Kotel (WesternWall).

2) He talks about how he plans to crash a plane into the NBC building and take over The Tonight Show.

And the #1 Sign that the Guy on your Flight Putting on Tefillin is Really a Terrorist…

1) He says that Allah told him that the Jets would win the Super Bowl.



Birthday Miracles (From 2011)

All of his life Len from Cape Breton had heard stories of an amazing family tradition. It seems that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been able to walk on water on their 21st birthday. On that day, they’d walk across the lake to the boat club for their first legal drink.

So when Len’s 21st birthday came around, he and his pal Corky took a boat out to the middle of the lake. Len stepped out of the boat and nearly drowned!

Corky just managed to pull him to safety. Furious and confused, Len went to see his grandmother. “Grandma, it’s my 21st birthday, so why can’t I walk across the lake, like my father, his father, and his father before him?”

Granny looked Len straight in the eyes, and said, “Because, you idiot, your father, grandfather and great-grandfather were born in January, you were born in July.”


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