Adapted from R David Wolfe-Blank Meta ParshIyot and Living Torah by R Aryeh Kaplan


In Eikev, Moshe continues sharing his ethical will with the Yisrael community.  He gives direction as to how to move forward without him, live a good and sustainable life, and reflects on key experiences over the last 40 years.


Moshe says there will be rewards only if the people stay the course and follow the rules. The rules create a vessel in which blessings flow. Without the container these blessings cannot be channeled.


The people are getting ready to conquer territory, so Moshe asserts the importance of staying confident. They will have no problem in battle. The Holy One will support them in victory. They must have faith and be confident.  


But they should not get overconfident. Instead, they should remember that the source of success comes from Havayah. It is a gift. It is not about them. Staying connected to Havayah is critical for the long term. The Promised Land is demanding. The land will require much care and attention. It is more challenging to cultivate produce there than in Mitzrayim.


Moshe tells the story of ascending the mountain and sitting with Havayah for forty days without food or drink. He descends the mountain with tablets in hand and sees the people worshipping the Golden Calf. The people missed Moshe and the Presence he brought with them. They lost faith and strayed off the path by finding something external to elevate as a god.



The Bnay Isaskhar writes that the Luhot tablets were the ketubah (wedding contract) between The Holy One of Blessing and C’lal Yisrael. Moshe knew that C’lal Yisrael had violated the ketubah by worshipping the Golden Calf. The penalty for that was death to the nation. Through breaking the tablets, Moshe annulled the wedding contract. This meant they were no longer unfaithful. And so, the people could live another day. Moshe was wise and quick to respond. The best thing to do at that moment was to release the tablets and allow them to break. 


This series of Torah portions can sound authoritarian, transactional, with an eye tp punishment. Initially, they read, if you behave, great things will happen – you will eat well, be safe, be fruitful and multiply; if you do not, then all bets are off, and ‘oy to you!’.  Relating to this Torah was difficult for me at first.

The book of D’varim can sound authoritarian and transactional, with an eye to punishment. –  If you behave, great things will happen – you will eat well, be safe, have children; if you do not, ‘oy to you!’.  Relating to this Torah was difficult at first.   As concern for the planet as a result of climate change increases, the message becomes more relevant and urgent.  It is saying, if you do not take care of your home, Earth will not yield its produce.


Sadly, the words now seem prophetic as we witness changes in daily life, like wildfires and flooding resulting from climate change. It is well accepted today that climate change results from humanity’s action. It is more essential now than ever that we humans stop taking Earth and her resources for granted. 2) This is a narrative of the four previous books as told by Moshe. Seeing D’varim as Moshe’s ethical will, in which he shares moments of significant impact that brought insight, lessons learned, regret, and understanding changes it. It becomes a message from Moshe’s heart to the community. It is different in this way from the other four books of Torah.


This brilliant translation by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi elevates these words. These Torah words describe cause and effect. It is not a threat or punishment; instead, it is the consequence of not giving heart and drifting off the path. Sadly, humanity continues to insult Earth by not honoring and polluting. Climate change is Earth’s response. Society will not survive without Earth. She will be fine without humans. She does not need us as we need her.


יג וְהָיָ֗ה אִם־שָׁמֹ֤עַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֹתַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָֽנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם לְאַֽהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־יְיָ֤ אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ וּלְעָבְד֔וֹ בְּכָל־לְבַבְכֶ֖ם וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁכֶֽם: יד וְנָֽתַתִּ֧י מְטַֽר־אַרְצְכֶ֛ם בְּעִתּ֖וֹ יוֹרֶ֣ה וּמַלְק֑וֹשׁ וְאָֽסַפְתָּ֣ דְגָנֶ֔ךָ וְתִירֹֽשְׁךָ֖ וְיִצְהָרֶֽךָ: טו וְנָֽתַתִּ֛י עֵ֥שֶׂב בְּשָֽׂדְךָ֖ לִבְהֶמְתֶּ֑ךָ וְאָֽכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ: טז הִשָּֽׁמְר֣וּ לָכֶ֔ם פֶּן־יִפְתֶּ֖ה לְבַבְכֶ֑ם וְסַרְתֶּ֗ם וַֽעֲבַדְתֶּם֙ אֱלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֔ים וְהִשְׁתַּֽחֲוִיתֶ֖ם לָהֶֽם: יז וְחָרָ֨ה אַף־יְיָ֜ בָּכֶ֗ם וְעָצַ֤ר אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֨יִם֙ וְלֹא־יִֽהְיֶ֣ה מָטָ֔ר וְהָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה לֹ֥א תִתֵּ֖ן אֶת־יְבוּלָ֑הּ וַֽאֲבַדְתֶּ֣ם מְהֵרָ֗ה מֵעַל֙ הָאָ֣רֶץ הַטֹּבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְיָ֖ נֹתֵ֥ן לָכֶֽם: יח וְשַׂמְתֶּם֙ אֶת־דְּבָרַ֣י אֵ֔לֶּה עַל־לְבַבְכֶ֖ם וְעַֽל־נַפְשְׁכֶ֑ם וּקְשַׁרְתֶּ֨ם אֹתָ֤ם לְאוֹת֙ עַל־יֶדְכֶ֔ם וְהָי֥וּ לְטֽוֹטָפֹ֖ת בֵּ֥ין עֵֽינֵיכֶֽם: יט וְלִמַּדְתֶּ֥ם אֹתָ֛ם אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֖ם לְדַבֵּ֣ר בָּ֑ם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ֤ בְּבֵיתֶ֨ךָ֙ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ֣ בַדֶּ֔רֶךְ וּֽבְשָׁכְבְּךָ֖ וּבְקוּמֶֽךָ: כ וּכְתַבְתָּ֛ם עַל־מְזוּז֥וֹת בֵּיתֶ֖ךָ וּבִשְׁעָרֶֽיךָ: כא לְמַ֨עַן יִרְבּ֤וּ יְמֵיכֶם֙ וִימֵ֣י בְנֵיכֶ֔ם עַ֚ל הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר נִשְׁבַּ֧ע יְיָ֛ לַֽאֲבֹֽתֵיכֶ֖ם לָתֵ֣ת לָהֶ֑ם כִּימֵ֥י הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ:

D’varim 11:13-20


How good it will be when you really listen, and hear my directions, which I give to you today, for loving YAH, who is your God, and to act godly

With feeling and inspiration.

 Your earthly needs will be met at the right time, appropriate to the season. 

You will reap what you planted

For your delight and health. 

Also, your animals will have ample feed.  

All of you will eat and be content.

Be careful — watch out! 

Don’t let your cravings delude you;

 Don’t become alienated;

Don’t let your cravings become your gods;

Don’t debase yourself to them, because the God-sense within you will become distorted. 

Heaven will be shut to you, grace will not descend, Earth will not yield her produce.  Your rushing will destroy you! 

And Earth will not be able to recover her good balance in which God’s gifts manifest. 

May these values of Mine, reside in your feelings and aspirations: marking what you produce, guiding what you perceive. 

Teach them to your children so that they are instructed how to make their homes sacred; and how they deal with traffic. 

Even when you are depressed and when you are elated. 

Mark your entrances and exits with them, so you will be more aware. 

Then, you and your children, and their children, will live out on earth that divine promise given to your ancestors to live heavenly days right here on this earth. 

 -Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi zt”l


Rabbi David Wolfe – Blank took a detour from his initial plan at the juncture in 5755. He started in the same flow in which we are counting and later made a change. In his updated method, R David assigned Mattot to ‘Tiferet in Yesod’ and Massay to ‘Hod of Yesod’. This, instead of keeping the two Torah portions together as Tiferet in Yesod, as was laid out initially. These two Torah portions are read together most years.

He did this because expanding them aligns D’varim with ‘Hod of Yesod.’ Then ‘Yesod of Yesod’ becomes aligned with Va’ethanan. Rabbi David explains that it is an extra potent Torah portion since Va’ethanan holds both The Sh’ma and Ten Commandments, foundational aspects of Jewish tradition.


Another way to consider this challenge is that Va’etchanah holds the quality of Hod. Sh’ma and the Ten Commandments are methods to attune the Divine Will and align (sync) with The Holy One’s patterns and resonance. This is Hod’s specialty, and for this reason, Va’etchanan resonates with Hod.

Another reason I am leaning towards this way is that Mattot-Masssey are usually read together. If the change is made, most years Tiferet of Yesod on and Netzah of Yesod would be read on the same Shabbat and therefore be conflated. These each deserve their own week for contemplation.

Eikev counts Yesod of Yesod in the Sefirah cycle, Foundation in Foundation

This is the most intimate level of communication in communication. Yesod of Yesod relates to essential intimacy, foundation, and cultivating of community. Said another way it is intimacy of intimacy, foundation of foundation, and community in community.

The opening lines of the Torah portion speak of brit, which means covenant. Brit corresponds to Yesod, as illustrated in “Brit Milah,” – circumcision and celebrated eight days following the birth of a male infant. It is usually translated as the “covenant of circumcision. ” The literal translation is “covenant of the word,” pointing to the circumcision of the mouth. It is relevant that these two covenants are hinted at within the title “Brit Milah.”


Moshe asks a very personal and relevant question in this Torah portion,

וְעַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה יְיָ֣ אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵֽעִמָּ֑ךְ

“And now, (you) Yisrael (person), what does Havayah, your God, ask of you?

D’varim 10:12

We each have a particular task to complete – this is why we were born. What are the unique skills you have? What were you brought here to achieve? This is an invitation to explore, discern, and refine your mission. It is an excellent time for introspection as we approach the work of returning to Source (T’shuvah) in Elul.

Moshe reminds the community of the intimate (Yesod) relationship that Havayah had with their ancestors.

רַ֧ק בַּֽאֲבֹתֶ֛יךָ חָשַׁ֥ק יְיָ֖ לְאַֽהֲבָ֣ה אוֹתָ֑ם וַיִּבְחַ֞ר בְּזַרְעָ֣ם אַֽחֲרֵיהֶ֗ם בָּכֶ֛ם מִכָּל־הָֽעַמִּ֖ים כַּיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה:

It was uniquely with your ancestors who Havayah delighted, and to love them, and his progeny was chosen, out of all nations, till this day.

D’varim 10:15

Moshe recognized that the relationship between Yisrael and The Holy One of Blessing has been rocky.

In many instances, in Torah, the formerly enslaved people were resistant in trusting, belligerent, and oppositional towards The Holy One of Blessing. Moshe tells the community that they have work to do. He guides the community to open their hearts and stop being stubborn.

וּמַלְתֶּ֕ם אֵ֖ת עָרְלַ֣ת לְבַבְכֶ֑ם וְעָ֨רְפְּכֶ֔ם לֹ֥א תַקְשׁ֖וּ עֽוֹד

Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and your neck will be stiff no more.

D’varim 10:16

Rashi interprets this as, ‘that which makes your heart sealed and their coverings,”. Alternatively, ‘Keep yourselves away from cravings, thick and heavy, that are like the foreskin, also to purify the heart until the truth is understood” and interpreted by Ibn Ezra.

It is hard to be human. We are vulnerable. Trauma can cause the human heart to retreat, and abundant sources exist. It can result in stubbornness, emotional shutdown, and eventually isolation. Staying present in the moment helps keep the heart open.


Sefer Yetzirah references not only circumcision of the root but circumcision of the tongue as well.  The matter is one of discernment 1) in procreation – partner, setting, intention…, 2) and speech – what we say and do not say. Both are creation vehicles. This covenant includes all human procreative processes independent of gender. The word “root” is used for inclusivity.


Speech creates realities, just as sexual union may create progeny. It pays to be circumscribed in speech, as in sexuality. Words are vehicles of transformation. Consider them wisely. A thoughtless comment can create a perception that will resonate, causing unnecessary pain.  Do your part to make more joy and less “oy!”.

Tmimah Audrey ickovits

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