Not by Bread Alone

We are approaching the end of the Jewish year of 5779, and now we are reading from Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:45. This portion starts with the word “Eikev”. Translated into English, it means “because.”

The Hebrew root of this word is also the root of the name “Jacob”. It literally means “at the heel of / what follows/ this is what will happen / the cause of the following events”. If history is defined as a chain of events, then this word or concept stands in the middle of this chain of events.

It is so important to me to always ask the following question, “How and why did this happen to me?” I am not talking here about good things or bad things that happen, I am just asking the question about what happened.

Maybe I would like to repeat the success or avoid the repetition of unpleasant or unfruitful chapters of my life. So, this week, after the 9th of Av, the date that will be remembered in infamy through all of Jewish history, Jews read from Deuteronomy 7:12, and start with his word “Eikev.”

It all starts with the good, the blessed, the fruitful:

“Then it shall come to pass, because you listen to these judgments, and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your fathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your land, your grain and your new wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flock, in the land of which He swore to your fathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock. And the Lord will take away from you all sickness, and will afflict you with none of the terrible diseases of Egypt which you have known, but will lay them on all those who hate you.” – Deuteronomy 7:12–15 [NKJV]

Who would not want these wonderful blessings from God? Who would say to himself, “I am not interested to have anyone bless me?” Who would say, “I am not interested to increase and multiply the amount of money in my bank account?” Who would not be willing to pay for high medical insurance that guarantees that all sickness and affliction and terrible diseases will be taken away from himself and from his family?

There are church leaders who have become multi-millionaires by teaching fake prosperity doctrines. These preachers did prosper, at least for a season, by the fake news and the fake doctrines that say if people come to church and give money to the “church” (i.e. the pastor), God will prosper them and they will be lenders and not taking loans.

Here in the Torah there is God’s promise of prosperity, and even under this very clear word from God there is the small print that is not written and visible to the normal eye. The obedience and performance of God’s commands is not a mechanical performance of a robot, but a sincere obedience with the right motives and intentions out of the true relationship based on, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your might and with all your being!”

The right action with the wrong motives (remember that God looks into our hearts and know our motives and thoughts) is hypocrisy, and no one, not even our wives, nor our God, appreciates hypocrisy. On the contrary, hypocrisy always brings the opposite results to what we have hoped for.

The second major idea in next week’s reading is from Deuteronomy 8:1-4:

“Every commandment which I command you today you must be careful to observe, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years.” – Deuteronomy 8:1-4 [NKJV]

The Lord is giving us a kind of a hidden revelation of why He does some things with us, and for us, and to us! It is true that at times, even when we are so-called “being good” and “trying our best” and “doing things right and from pure motives of really trying to obey and do right from all our heart”, suddenly “boom” we get something horrible and difficult and threatening our very existence.

Well here we are! The Lord reveals to us that the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, with all the difficulties of hunger and thirst and attacks of the enemy, were a test. As simple as that. A test to see if we would remain faithful and keep our faith in God, and keep His commandments.

The words here actually make me a little upset:

“So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna… that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” – Deuteronomy 8:3 [NKJV]

My first reaction was, “Who does He thinks He is?” “Who gave Him the permission to make us hunger? Who wants to be humbled? For sure it is not me!”

Then, with a flash of freezing ice cold sweat across my forehead, I realized the importance of the lesson. It is that the Lord God Creator of the Universe was and is attempting to teach us, that man (me) does not live by bread alone! Bread here is not only pita bread with falafel, not even a good juicy beef steak, bread here is money and assets and bank accounts and savings, and every false security that we want to lean on.

To learn this important lesson, God sent our forefathers 40 years through the university of hard knocks. Many have entered and gone through this university of hard knocks for many years, and have even have the impression that they have graduated summa cum laude, but in reality, few have learned the lesson that “man does not live by bread alone.”

Those that did learn this lesson have become humble and passionate lovers of God and humanity, or shall I reverse the order and say lovers of humanity and God. Those who have successfully learned this lesson have given up their selfish desires and work for the good of many, and not just the few in their family.

I better end here this diatribe and just wish for myself to learn these important lessons that God has given us all through His word, both in print and especially through His word that materialized in the form of one great teacher, Yeshua our Messiah, Savior, and King.

Because I don’t see into my fellow man’s heart, at first glance it would seem that both the Father and the Son did not do such a good job as our teachers. It would seem that most of their students did not pass the exam.

But, then I remember school is not finished yet, and the bell has not rung yet, and the classes are not dismissed yet, and we are all waiting for the graduation ceremony to receive our report cards from the Man dressed in white, seated on the throne, calling those sheep to go to the right and the goats to the left. Graduation is coming for all of us! Let us see how much we can get done before the final bell and the shofar sounds. Shofar so good!

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.