The name of this week’s portion, “Eikev,” means “reward.” In other words, all the good things that will happen to the Israelites in the Promised Land – fertility, good health, military victory – are not automatic but are contingent on their behavior (10:12-13): “12 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, 13 keeping the Lord’s commandments and laws, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good.”
They will eat until they are satisfied. Lest they start feeling too self-satisfied, Moses reminds them that they do not prosper solely by their efforts. They are not self-made. They are being favored only because the Lord made a promise to their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and because the Lord wants to rid the Land of the idolatrous Canaanites. In fact, the Israelites are darn lucky they have survived thus far. Moses reminds them how his intervention was needed to save them after they built their golden calf. The fragments of the first set of tablets of the Ten Commandments are kept in the Ark with the second set as a tangible reminder. And they must teach all this to their offspring, down through the generations.
This portion also contains the second paragraph of the Shema (11:13-21), which includes commandments concerning tefillin (11:18) and mezuzot (11:20). Affixing a mezuzah to a door jamb is a much more widely observed practice than wearing tefillin during weekday morning prayer. In fact, I don’t think I actually saw anyone praying with tefillin on until I was an adult, mainly because I didn’t go to weekday morning prayer services. Then there’s the issue of women wearing tefillin. Forbidden? Allowed? Commanded? If you just go by the Biblical text, women are as much commanded as men. But the rabbis exempted women from time-linked commandments and “rabbinically exempted” over time hardened into “societally forbidden.” Pushback includes interesting (mis?)interpretations of halakha (Jewish law) concerning cross-dressing and bodily cleanliness. Frankly, I think it’s a matter of tzniut (modesty in dress and behavior) and how your society defines what is proper. Then there’s the motivation question. Elana Sztokman wrote in Tefillingate: Orthodoxy must not reject its most committed women (as cited at
http://tzvee.blogspot.com/2014/01/haaretz-why-women-want-to-wear-tefillin.html ), “…even though women are not prohibited from the commandments of tallit and tefillin, women should nevertheless only be permitted to take on the commandments if our motives are deemed ‘pure.’ This rationale has given men and rabbis permission to be the self-appointed judge and jury for women’s religious expression, peering uninvited into women’s hearts and minds, making judgmental determinations about our relationship with our Creator, and passing sentence on what is permitted or not permitted based on their vicarious role as all-powerful judge over women. No Jewish man has ever been subjected to this kind of examination and ownership.”
When a girl or woman wants to participate in some activity previously done only by men, men often think it’s because the barrier exists and she wants to be the first woman to overcome it, her interest in the activity per se being secondary. My observation is the reversed: She wants to (read Torah, wear tefillin, lead services, etc.) for the same reasons a male does and then finds there is an externally-imposed barrier she needs to deal with. Sometimes there’s an internal barrier as well, a confounding gut reaction. I have worn tefillin at services, though not recently. I own a set. I keep meaning to relearn how to wrap those leather straps around my hand and arm and to practice at private prayer until I am as comfortable wearing them as my tallit. I keep meaning to.
When Ben and his family returned home from his son’s Bar Mitzvah, they were shocked to discover that all the money and cards he received had gone missing! Rivkah, Ben’s wife swore she handed all the cards and money to the Rabbi and asked him to keep an eye on it throughout the party. Ben didn’t want to accuse his Rabbi of stealing, so decided it was best to avoid him!
A full year later, Ben see’s the Rabbi at the grocery store. The Rabbi corners him and says “Ben, nu! Why have you been avoiding me!” Ben sighs. “To be honest Rabbi, I have been avoiding you ever since we discovered that the cards and money have been missing from the Bar Mitzvah!” “Tell me, Ben,” the Rabbi says. “Has your son been putting on his tefillin?” “Of course!” Ben answered. “But what does that have to do with the money?” The Rabbi answers, “I put the cards and money in your son’s tefillin bag which he clearly hasn’t opened since his Bar Mitzvah!”
(#1779) The power of a mezuzah [My thanks to Frank R for the following]
Joshua operates a successful mobile phone business in Tel Aviv and has recently opened an office in Shanghai. When he rings Jian, his Chinese partner, to see how sales are doing in Shanghai, Jian says, “Mr Joshua, things are not going so well. Our shop is suffering from a number of robberies and I don’t know what to do. Do you have a similar problem in Tel Aviv?”
“No Jian, not really,” replies Joshua. “We have this little box that we put on our doorframes, it’s called a mezuzah, and this protects our homes and offices from any harm.”
“Oh then please send me one, Mr Joshua, as I don’t know what else to do.”
Joshua puts one in the post that day with instructions on how to put it up. But three weeks later the mezuzah is returned to him, so Joshua rings Jian. “I’ve just got back the mezuzah I sent you. So nu, didn’t it work?”
“It worked fine, Mr Joshua,” replies Jian, “I’ve had no more robberies.”
“So why did you return it to me?” asks Joshua.
“Because it drove me and my customers mad, Mr Joshua, that’s why,” replies Jian. “Almost as soon as I put it up, the shop kept on being visited by different types of men with collection boxes in their hands asking my customers, ‘tsedaka kallah?’”
tsedaka kallah: charity for brides
Quotes on Being Satisfied
It’s easy to impress me. I don’t need a fancy party to be happy. Just good friends, good food, and good laughs. I’m happy. I’m satisfied. I’m content. Maria Sharapova
Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? Bob Marley
A lion’s work hours are only when he’s hungry; once he’s satisfied, the predator and prey live peacefully together. Chuck Jones
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best. Oscar Wilde
Rest satisfied with doing well, and leave others to talk of you as they will. Pythagoras