2000This is Moses' third week of speaking to the Israelite people. It is a very long speech! He continues by speaking to the people about the prosperity they will enjoy in years to come.
Not By Bread Alone
You will eat and be satisfied,
and build goodly houses and settle(there),
and your herds and your flocks become many
and silver and gold become much for you,
with all that belongs to you becoming much --
that your heart become haughty
and you forget YHWH your God,
the one who brought you out from the land of Egypt,
from a house of serfs,
the one who had you travel in the wilderness, great
(of) burning snakes and scorpions,
and thirsty-soil where there is no water
the one who brought forth water for you, from the flinty rock,
the one who had you eat manna in the wilderness,
which your fathers had not known,
in order to afflict you and in order to test you,
for it to go well with you, in your future.
Now should you say in your heart:
my power and the might of my hand have produced all this
wealth for me;
then you must bear in mind YHWH your God,
that he was the one who gave you the power to produce
wealth, in order to establish his covenant that he swore
to your fathers, as (is) this (very) day.
1. What are some examples prosperity that will befall the Israelite people?
2. What does Moses warn the people against?
3. What does Moses want the people to recognize about how they came to success?
4. Is Moses saying that God controls our successes and failures?
5. What does Judaism say about God's role in our lives? Is there free will? Is everything preordained?
Moses' speech is about remembering. Remembering back in our people's collective memory, of the Exodus together, of receiving the Torah at Sinai. Of being a part of this magnificent history, and never losing our place in it. He says: "Be careful. Do not forget these things."
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that we don't have anything to do with our success. The Jewish approach to life is not: "Sit back. Don't bother. God will take care of things." Because that's not how it works, or how God does things. We have to do ours. Our talents and abilities are a gift from God, we must use them. And even as we take credit for all of our wonderful qualities, we remember not to take too much credit.
In this parasha, Moses also says one of those cool Torah verses that remains famous today. He says: "Human beings do not live on bread alone." That we are not only body, but also mind. We cannot live on bread alone, not only on our creations. Rather, we can live by God's power, which went forth at the time of creation and guides us still today. It provides nourishment for our souls.
May we acknowledge our successes. And as we do, may we also remember how they came to be.
Rabbi Andrea Lerner, Midwest Director of Hillel's Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, University of Wisconsin