At first blush, Parashat Eikev seems to be just more of the same: obey=reward, disobey=punishment. There are consequences to actions. But mechanical obedience isn’t enough, not by a long shot.
Moses tells the Israelites they can have a wonderful future, but they must remember that they are not the only source of that future. They must not be so arrogant as to believe they are “self-made men.” It was the Lord, Moses reminds them, “who led you through the great and terrible wilderness with its seraph serpents and scorpions, a parched land with no water in it, who brought forth water for you from the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers had never known, in order to test you by hardships only to benefit you in the end.” (8:15-16) And they aren’t going to the Promised Land because they are so wonderful (remember all those times the Lord was ready to destroy them, especially the Golden Calf incident?) but because of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the wickedness of the current inhabitants.
But Moses assures the Israelites that they can indeed satisfy the Lord. “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, which I enjoin upon you today, for your good… Yet it was to your fathers that the LORD was drawn in His love for them, so that He chose you, their lineal descendants, from among all peoples—as is now the case.” (from 10:12-15)
Now we get to how the Israelites are to obey. This isn’t a dry, legalistic quid pro quo arrangement. It must be intensely, consciously based on love, including fidelity, loyalty, and faithful obedience.
That brings us to an image in 10:16 which is sometimes translated as “incline your heart” or “cut away the barrier of your heart,” but is literally, “circumcise your heart.” It means to remove a metaphorical barrier that has desensitized you spiritually. This spiritual sensitivity is needed for the Israelites to carry out the commandments with the right intent. Rabbi Charles Buckholtz, aged 40, wrote (Washington Post, July 15, 2013; see also 2013 TPH) how he finally understood this imagery when faced with surgery for an 8 mm tumor on a heart valve after having had 6 strokes in 2 months. He wrote, “I started to see my surgery — the snipping of an obstruction so that my heart could be revealed and re-sensitized — as a covenant of rebirth. What began as a terrifying and inscrutable (but undoubtedly well-deserved!) punishment had become a vehicle for teaching me how intensely I wanted not only to live, but to live differently.” He has another stroke right before the scheduled surgery, and then the surgeon does an ultrasound and finds that the heart tumor is essentially gone; apparently, most of it had already broken off and caused the most recent stroke. “All that was left was a flat mass, smooth against the tissue of the valve, barely detectable and posing no danger to me.” A fitting and miraculous conclusion to a process in which both physical and emotional obstructions were removed.
Near the end of the portion (11:13-21) are the verses that are the second paragraph of the Shema in our liturgy, once more describing how good behavior will lead to a good life, and misbehavior, to disaster. Commands concerning tefillin and mezuzot are here as well (11:18 and 20, respectively). These are intended to be tangible reminders of this teaching, and this is a people that unfortunately will need a lot of reminding.
‘Have tefillin, will travel’ motto of Jewish in-joke comedy maven (excerpt)
About to set off on a world tour with his family, Joel Chasnoff is prepared to be asked by dirty minded airport security about his phylactery use
By CATHRYN J. PRINCE7 August 2015, 3:36 am
GREENWICH, Connecticut — As a stand-up comedian, Joel Chasnoff frequently takes to the friendly skies. One night it’s Miami, two days later it’s Boston. So packing tefillin in his carry-on bag is as normal as tucking in a toothbrush and the approved 3 oz. bottle of shampoo. But in a post-9/11 world, particularly during the Bush years, it raised more than a few TSA eyebrows.
“How do you even explain tefillin 8-foot-long leather straps to people who believe in moral values? Like, they asked, ‘Do you use this in the bedroom?’” Chasnoff asks audiences during on routine. “Only if I can’t find 9 other men.”
Mezuzah stories have made the news for many years. Newsday, Oct. 31, 2009, carried the following headline:
CONDO COMPLEX RELENTS, AGREES TO ALLOW MEZUZAHS.
Yes, a Jewish woman from Dix Hills, Long Island, said that her condominium complex discriminated against her by stopping her from displaying a 4-inch mezuzah on her front “tir” (door). State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, investigated after receiving a complaint that residents were told to “either take down their mezuzahs or purchase a screen door costing between $300 to $500 to conceal (“oysbahaltn”) the object.”
What happened then:
https://www.stroock.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Pub1230.pdf p. 2 “After an investigation by the Attorney General’s office, the association agreed to pay a $10,000 fine and institute new policies permitting occupants to display such religious objects.”
On One Foot – July 9, 2006
Parshas Eikev, or The Fundamentals of Computer Programming:
[Else if (condition X)
Then (statements X)]
[Else] (else statements)
Quotes about Consequences
Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune. William James
Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices. Alfred A. Montapert
The consequences of things are not always proportionate to the apparent magnitude of those events that have produced them. Thus the American Revolution, from which little was expected, produced much; but the French Revolution, from which much was expected, produced little. Charles Caleb Colton
It’s easy to play a bad girl: You just do everything you’ve been told not to do, and you don’t have to deal with the consequences, because it’s only acting. Eliza Dushku
I strive never to forget the real world consequences of my decisions on individuals, businesses and government. Sonia Sotomayor