Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Eikev - 5775

My friends,

This is the third portion in the Book of Devarim, continuing the discourse Moses gave to his people before he died.

Moses says that if the children of Israel keep the Mitzvot and laws of the Torah, G-d will keep the promise He made to our ancestors. He will love us, bless us and multiply us, and there will be a blessing in our children, our produce and our herds in this promised land.

Moses reminds the people of the 40 years in the wilderness when their only food was the manna. The purpose of such a sustenance was to teach them that "man does not live on bread alone, but that man may live on anything that the L-rd decrees." (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin points out the different interpretation given by the Targum Onkelous - the Aramaic translation of the Torah - to the Hebrew word "Yihyeh" (live) in this verse. Onkelous translates this verse as follows:

"man does not exist on bread alone, but man lives on anything that the L-rd decrees."

The first Yihyeh he translates as 'exists' but the second Yihyeh he translates as 'lives'. It would seem that Onkelous wanted to distinguish between 'existence' and 'living'. Yes, we need bread to exist, our body needs food, nourishment to survive. However, if all our efforts and our pursuits in this world are only for the purpose of being in a position to acquire more and more material things that will satisfy our physical needs and comfort, then we really did not learn how to live. What we are doing is just meeting the needs related to our physical existence.

We need G-d's words to help us lead a spiritual life, a life that is filled with love and compassion, caring and helping the community. Such a life is indeed one that comes from the words of God, helping us to make a difference in the world in which we live, a life of Maassim Tovim, a life of acts of kindness. That is the kind of life that is remembered long after our physical life is no longer in the land of the living.

The message this Shabbat is: "Don't just exist, LIVE!"

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram