24 August 2016
This week’s parasha, Eikev, includes these words of caution:“When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses to live in, and your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold have increased…beware lest your heart grow haughty and you forget God, who freed you from the land of Egypt…and you say to yourselves, ‘My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me’.” (Deuteronomy 8:10–14; 8:17)
This portion is the basis of the Birkat HaMazon the “Grace after Meals.” More expansively, when we enjoy any of the comforts of our lives, we are reminded that we are not solely responsible for what we achieve. This is a challenging concept for the modern age. After all, don’t we tell our children that if they study and work hard, they “can be anything they want to be?” And when they do achieve it, should they not look back and declare all that they possess the result of all they have done?
Humility and perspective are the key teachings of this parasha. While we are certainly responsible for our successes (and failures), we are also enjoined to remember how we got here. It is through the sacrifices of others and those we follow that we achieve success (the literal definition of eikev is “heel,” as in the story of how Jacob followed Esau out of his mother’s womb by holding onto his heel). And just as we are commanded to bless the food we are about to eat and thank God for the food we have just eaten, so too should we be humble and thankful for all we accomplish.