Parashat Ekev

The Challenges Of Humility

We should respond to our prosperity with recognition of the factors that lead to our success and with humility before God.

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The following article is reprinted with permission from the Union for Reform Judaism.

Parashah Overview

  • Moses tells the Israelites that if they follow God's laws, the nations who now dwell across the Jordan River will not harm them. (Deuteronomy 7:12–26)

  • Moses reminds the people of the virtues of keeping God's commandments. He also tells them that they will dispossess those who now live in the Land only because they are idolatrous, not because the Israelites are uncommonly virtuous. Thereupon, Moses reviews all of the trespasses of the Israelites against God. (Deuteronomy 8:1–10:11)

  • Moses says that the Land of Israel will overflow with milk and honey if the people obey God's commandments and teach them to their children. (Deuteronomy 10:12–11:25)

Focal Point

When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to Adonai your God for the good land that God has given you. Take care lest you forget Adonai your God and fail to keep God's commandments, rules, and laws, which I enjoin upon you today. 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, and everything you own has prospered, beware lest your heart grow haughty and you forget Adonai your God, who freed you from the land of Egypt, the house of bondage … 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)

Your Guide

Moses is concerned that when the people become prosperous, they will forget about God. Do you think that this is a reasonable concern? Why? How do people fall into this kind of trap?

In verse 10 we are told that when we have eaten our fill, we must thank God. This commandment is the basis of the Birkat HaMazon, "Grace after Meals." How might saying the Birkat HaMazon or a blessing before a meal be an antidote to the danger of forgetting to thank God? Can you think of some other antidotes?

What else do we take for granted in the modern world? Can you cite a time when you were guilty of doing that? In contrast, can you recall a time when you recognized God's presence and were grateful for it? What was the difference between those two instances?

Humility is a quality that Jewish tradition deems very important, but often when we think we are being humble, we aren't! How important do you think humility is? What are some actions that reflect humility? Is the practice of humility an antidote to taking God and other things for granted? How?

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Paula L. Feldstein is a rabbi at Temple Emanuel, Worcester, MA.