After just attending a shiva minyan in the neighborhood the past few nights, I was inspired to offer some words of Torah on this Shabbat of Ekev, the second Shabbat of Consolation following Tisha B'av. As a number of relevant and inspirational quotes had come to mind, I will present each of them and explain its relevance for these concluding days of the summer, after camp has ended and before returning to school next week.
ב טוֹב לָלֶכֶת אֶל-בֵּית-אֵבֶל, מִלֶּכֶת אֶל-בֵּית מִשְׁתֶּה--בַּאֲשֶׁר, הוּא סוֹף כָּל-הָאָדָם; וְהַחַי, יִתֵּן אֶל-לִבּוֹ.While I do not believe it is at all healthy to have Kohelet's bleak world view all the time, it is important to take his words to heart once in a while. Although I did not know the woman for whom we were mourning, I always find Shiva Minyanim a time to step back and reflect on our relationships with those whom we care about and with our communities, as opposed to with the material world of our daily lives. These ideas are also reflected in the words of Psalm 49, recited on most days in a house of mourning:
2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to his heart. (Kohelet Chapter 7)
But man abideth not in honour; he is like the beasts that perish.While these words of the psalmist may be quite overly bleak,I feel that they are appropriate for a house of mourning, when we should be steered to focus on the legacy that a person left, and not just on possessions.
14 This is the way of them that are foolish, and of those who after them approve their sayings. Selah
15 Like sheep they are appointed for the nether-world; death shall be their shepherd;
and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their form shall be for the nether-world to wear away, that there be no habitation for it.
16 But God will redeem my soul from the power of the nether-world; for He shall receive me. Selah
Parashat Ekev is also about reflection, sitting in the middle of Moses's second discourse to the people of Israel as they are about to enter the land. Ekev sits between the majesty of V'etchanan, when we heard the Aseret Hadibrot (decalogue) and Sh'ma, and the legal code which begins in next weeks reading of Re'eh. But this week is Moshe's opportunity to remind the new generation which is poised to enter the land of where they have come from and their ultimate mission. Before Moshe reviews the sins of the generation of the wilderness, and especially of the Golden Calf, he reminds us and them of God's love that he had shown in the desert:
We learn a number of lessons from these poignant verses.
- Man does not live by bread alone: As we get ready to return to our routines of school and work, we should also assess the Mitzvot that we perform and our other actions, in addition to the way we earn our physical bread
- Your clothing did not get old upon you: A good reminder to be thankful, in addition to God, to those who raised us and made sure that our clothing never got too worn, in addition to nurturing us spiritually.
- Just as a parent chastens their child: Disipline is only appropriate and effective when done out of love, but we often do not see the love in our discipline or rebuke until years later.
- Jeremiah: כ עָבַר קָצִיר, כָּלָה קָיִץ; וַאֲנַחְנוּ, לוֹא נוֹשָׁעְנוּ. 20 'The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.'(Chapter 8)
- Naomi Shemer:
זה סוף הקיץ סוף הדרך
תן להם לשוב הלום
כל שנבקש לו יהי.
Allow them to return safely here
All that we seek, may it be
Both Jeremiah and Shemer served as 'national poets' for the Jewish people, during the destruction of the first Temple and the Rebirth of the State of Israel respectively, and they bring very different ideas out of this turning of the seasons. While Jeremiah seems to represent one who had goals for the long days of summer and now mourns over what he wished to accomplish and was unable to, Naomi Shemer sees this conclusion of a time of hope, concluding with the words made famous by The Beatles, 'Let it Be.' As the days get shorter and start to cool, We can choose to follow Jeremiah or Naomi Shemer; Although both are beautiful poets, I will try to live up to Shemer's lyrics, and in the spirit of the other words of our tradition, trying to use these days of Shabbat Ekev for reflection, and a resolve to keep improving our deeds and continue hoping that God will let it be
Ken Y'hi Ratzon. Amen.