This week the Parashah is Eikev. Moses continues his discourse as we wait before entering the land. He reminds them of the choices that will affect their lives: Conditions are being set out.
The word “Eikev” can be translated in many ways. It can be read as “because” or “if”, or “it will be” or “it will come to pass”. In the first century Onkelos translated the words as “in exchange for”. The way forward is not always straight: Life is a journey and even God understands that we may stray.
In the history of Jacob the similar sounding word “Ekev” is the “heel” he grasped to overcome Esau. From this we derived the concept that “treading” on commandments, even those that seem insignificant or even obscure, is a dangerous path which can also affect our lives. Later in the Parashah we go on to read
שִׂמְלָ֨תְךָ֜ לֹ֤א בָֽלְתָה֙ מֵֽעָלֶ֔יךָ וְרַגְלְךָ֖ לֹ֣א בָצֵ֑קָה זֶ֖ה אַרְבָּעִ֥ים שָׁנָֽה:
Your clothing did not wear out upon you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.
What we brought with us out of the wilderness, the Chukkim and Mishpatim, would be with us wherever we would go.
We are reminded of our rebellions in the desert, the forbearance shown by God: in the inscribing of the second tablets of stone and manna to sustain us. Famously we are also reminded that
man does not live by bread alone, but rather by, whatever comes forth from the mouth of the Lord does man live.
The second verse of the Shema follows. Although the verses of the Shema are looked on as a prayer they are not so. Prayer is speaking to God. What we are doing here is listening to God.
What God says is
And now, O Israel, what does the Lord, your God, ask of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul
Each of us understands these words in our own way. Fear of God might be to stand in awe. To walk in his ways may be to follow the mitzvoth. To love is a very personal matter.
Judaism is not just about feeling good; it is about becoming better.