Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ekev and God's Wealth

As we march through the portions of Deuteronomy, amidst the promises of reward and the threats of punishment in Moses’ lengthy warnings to the Israelites, we discover these words: “Remember it is the Lord your God who gives you the strength to make wealth…” (Deuteronomy 9:18)

The religious perspective insists that the foods we eat and the successes we earn are not our own but are instead owed to God. Even though I believe each of us deserves a measure of praise for our own successes I wonder how our world might be improved if we were to adopt this philosophy.

If my success is not my own, if my wealth is not because of my own strengths, intelligence and skills, then perhaps I am more willing to share with others and give to my community. I am less inclined to hold this wealth in my own hands because it is not owed to the work of my hands. Everything is a gift. Everything is blessing from God.

And that is the goal of the society the Torah wishes to create. It is about fashioning a sense of “our.” Its theory is that in order to do so, in order to train the soul to share, we must replace “It is mine.” with “It is because of God.”

If everything belongs to God, if the food I eat, if the successes I attain, are because of God then it becomes easier for me to share. Community can only be sustained by sharing.

That is the Torah’s goal. A holy community can only succeed because of God’s strength.

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