Parashat Ekev (hearken – pay attention to)

The Parasha this week is Ekev (hearken – pay attention towhich is Deuteronomy 7:12 to 11:25

Moses continues his oration of instruction that the people are to take note of in preparation for their crossing into the land of Canaan. He makes clear that if our ancestors were to follow God’s commandments that they would be blessed in every way. Their crops and flock would prosper and grow as would their families. They were not to fear the people they were about to dispossess even though they were stronger and more numerous God would be there to fight alongside

If they were to ever be fearful of their enemies in the land, they were about to possess they should remember the miracles that the LORD performed for them in Egypt. God would not drive them out in one go in case the wild animals took over the land, but that he would drive them out little by little until they were totally destroyed. The golden images are to be burned and not even the gold itself is to be desired or brought into their houses since it is abominable.

Moses reminds our ancestors of his provision in the wilderness. Their clothes did not wear out and they were supplied with manna showing that man did not live by bread alone but by every word that came out of the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8: 3)

The wilderness years were a time of God’s discipline They were to obey every command the LORD gave them since they were entering a good land of brooks and streams and hills and valleys. They were to eat of the seven species of the land namely wheat barley vines figs pomegranates olives and honey (made from dates).

Once the people had eaten well and were satisfied, they were not to forget God who provided them with those good things. The danger was that they would become proud and think that their own abilities had gained them that wealth and cease to give thanks to God. The LORD however has power to both bless and destroy, so he is capable of doing to Israel what he did to the nations they defeated.

The pre-battle briefing went on. They were about to cross the Jordan and face giants who lived in fortified cities whose walls reached to the sky. God will defeat them. However, the people were not to think that it was on account of any goodness in them. Rather it was because of the evil of those they were to dispossess.

To emphasize this point, Moses recapped the history of Israel’s rebellion against God. When he went up to Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, he came back down to see the people reveling and worshipping the golden calf.

Apart from that incident of course there was the time when they were told to take the land, but they refused to fight. God wanted to destroy the people each time they rebelled, and it was only because Moses got down on his knees and prayed and reminded God that if He did not preserve the nation and bring them to the promised land that everyone would question God’s power. Each time Israel sinned, the intercession of Moses helped God to change his mind.

The Second set of Tablets

Moses recounts how he ascended Sinai a second time with a new pair of tablets for God to inscribe once again the commandments that he had smashed in anger the first time round. He placed the tablets in the Ark and the LORD set aside the tribe of Levi to carry it.

Fear God

The responsibilities of the people God had set his love on were straightforward. To be in awe of God and adhere to his precepts. They were to take care of the fatherless and widows and the strangers who dwelt among them. They were to remember their origins. When Joseph brought his father Jacob back to live in Egypt the family numbered seventy people. Now they were as numerous as the stars in the sky. All the credit is to go to God.

Second Paragraph of the Shema 

The summary of the whole speech is that Israel is to love and fear God and to take note of His instruction. In verses 16 to 21 we have the second paragraph of the Shema warning Israel to pay attention to his Mitzvot –His commandments.

If they were to obey everywhere they set their feet, from the desert to Lebanon and from the Euphrates River to the Mediterranean Sea would be theirs and no one would be able to oppose them

Haftarat Ekev                  הפטרת עקב

The Haftarah reading associated with the Parasha is Isaiah 49:14-51:3. It is the second of seven Haftaroth of consolation in the period between Tisha B’av and Rosh Hashanah

After a time of great suffering Israel must question whether or not God has abandoned her. The prophet speaks words of comfort saying that God cannot forget Israel any more than a mother can forget the child she is nursing.

See I have engraved you on the palm of my hand”  (Isaiah 49:16)

God will bring back the exiles of his people and Kings and Queens of nations will carry them home like their own children.

The prophet explains that God is able to dry up waters and bring destruction but also talks prophetically about an obedient servant who would instruct but who would be mocked rather than his instruction be listened to

I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard  (Isaiah 50::6)

But for those who pursue righteousness there will be a time of great joy to come in Zion

Joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the sound of singing.(Isaiah 51:3)

Messianic Message

Throughout scripture the strong thread going through the Tanach (Old Testament) is the connection between the people and the land of Israel and a simple instruction was that if the Jewish people would listen to God, they would enjoy both prosperity and security bur if she did not, the opposite, that is to say exile and disaster, would happen.

In the early days of the State of Israel there was a great feeling of longing for the whole country including all Jerusalem, to be under Israel’s control. When that miracle finally happened in 1967 little credit was given to God for it. People put bumper stickers on their cars which read ‘’Kol hakavod le tzava’ which means ‘All the credit to the Army’ God who was clearly the author and finisher of the victory at the time was to all intents and purposes left out of the equation. The warning we read in the Parasha to not become proud in our achievements was almost totally ignored and six years later in October of 1973 the country came close to being overrun by Syria and Egypt

Ever since then, Israel has been eager to divest itself of the land she once so longed for. In 1979 the Sinia peninsular was returned to Egypt. In 1993 the Oslo Accords created a patchwork quilt of different areas controlled either by Israel or the Palestinian Authority or a combination of both, creating a labyrinth of checkpoints that the local population has to navigate while going about their daily business.  Lastly is Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 delivered by Six-Day War hero Ariel Sharon with absolutely no concessions or guarantees from the other side whatsoever. He left twenty-one Israeli settlements abandoned, and their residents forced to move or be made homeless. Gaza has been a thorn in the side of Israel ever since.

All this because no one in the Israeli Government has ever really taken seriously the words of the Parasha as written in Deuteronomy 7: 22ff   Peace and security come from following God’s law, not ‘land for peace’ or political shenanigans. . That will never work while modern Israel continues to take a leading rôle in following the idols of this world.

But you may say Israel is very religious. We do recite the Shema. We do write God’s commandments on our doorposts. Every official building has a mezuzah. Religious Jews bind God’s commandment on their hands and between their eyes when they lay tefillin just as the Shema instructs.

How many Israelis’ or Jews, in general, can tell you which passages are written inside of a mezuzah or tefillin box and even if they can tell you, have they ever read and inwardly digested those verses.  God requires not outward ritual but a change of heart.

Rav Shaul (Paul) writes

For one is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision something visible in the flesh. Rather, the Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the heart—in Spirit not in letter. His praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)

What about the Palestinians then. Surely there is a place for them. After all God commanded us to love the foreigner since we were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19) Many would say the Palestinians are not foreigners at all since their families have been there for generations. Should we deal with them as our ancestors did the Amalekites? God forbid.

When God established the first covenant through Moses the only way to deal with sin and establish a holy nation was to put the sinner and sinful nations to death.

Now Messiah has died himself for sinners there is no need for anyone Jew or Arab or member of other gentile nation to die. The destiny of the Palestinians is to become one with Israel by the blood of Messiah

“Therefore, keep in mind that once you—Gentiles in the flesh—were called “uncircumcision” by those called “circumcision” (which is performed on flesh by hand). At that time, you were separate from Messiah, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Messiah Yeshua, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.” Ephesians 2:12-13

Trust God. He has got it all worked out

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36

This article originally appeared on the BMJA website and is reposted with permission.