Through Weakness And Strength

In times of success and prosperity we must remember those who have assisted us in the past.


The following article is reprinted with permission from CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

The Israelites are about to experience a great transformation. After 40 years in the wilderness, they are to enter "a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains…of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates…where [they] will lack nothing" (Deuteronomy 8:7ff.). On the east bank of the Jordan, Moses instructs them, "When you have eaten your fill give thanks to…God" (Deuteronomy 8:10).

Is the reminder necessary? Could the Israelites, eating from the bounty of the land, forget who enabled them to enjoy it?

Moses fears that the Israelites will indeed quickly forget the lessons of the Exodus and the wilderness. The land, which should serve as a constant reminder of God’s goodness to them, may soon be regarded as the spoils of war. God does not begrudge the Israelites the fine houses, the abundant herds and harvests, the gold and silver of their new land.

The parasha does not denounce the Israelites’ acquisition of wealth. Rather it cautions them, "Beware lest you forget…God… and you say to yourselves, ‘My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me’" (8:14ff.). Wealth is dangerous when it leads its possessors to become self-absorbed and self-congratulatory.

It is easy to acknowledge our need for others when we are living in a wilderness, when survival is only possible through cooperation. When we find ourselves in possession of wealth, when we are capable of meeting our needs, we are eager to deny the uncertainty and dependency of the past.

The Israelites who will enter Canaan are reminded that their survival in the desert and their possession of the land are inescapably linked. Just as they acknowledged the power of God when they were weakest, so must they remember God’s role in their continuing success.

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Dvora Weisberg is Associate Professor of Rabbinics and Director of the Beit Midrash at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.

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