What are You Afraid Of?

Av 18 5780 בלוג עֵקֶב, י”ח אב, תש”פ Ranebi

This portion Ekev together with Vaetchanan, emphasizes the first three of the Ten Principles given by our Creator to Moshe Rabenu at Har Sinai. These Ten Principles are divided into three parts, with the first three being mitzvot (commandments) from which we learn that the Creator exists as a God of history, that He demands alliance to Himself alone – to no other gods and that His Presence, His Name is unique and must not be misused; the fourth and fifth are Chukkim (statutes) and the last five are Mishpatim (judgments or ordinances). The last two divisions of the Ten Principles will be covered in later Parashot.

The Creator teaches us by reminding us of the mistakes we made in the past solely so that we can learn from them and not repeat them again. He calls us a “stiff-necked people” קְשֵׁה-עֹרֶף k’sheh-oref because we have so much trouble trusting Him although the Creator vowed to our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that He would always care for us. To this day, He has never wavered; it is man who is disloyal, not Him. The Creator gave us gifts of free will and faith, but we need to put them into action. He will not do it for us. He doesn’t want us to be dependent upon Him. The Creator cannot be manipulated, nor can He be bought. It is a pagan idea to do something for Him simply to make points or appease Him; this is not from the Torah. The only way to come to the Creator is through teshuva.

Moshe was reminding this generation that their parents had all died in the desert because of their fear and exhorted them to not be afraid. What are we afraid of today when we see people caught in a sense of hysteria from this pandemic? If we look at it through the eyes of the Torah, the Creator is telling us that yes, it is important to be wise, to take precaution, but not to be paralyzed by fear. Have you ever betrayed the Creator out of fear because you don’t want to be judged by others? It is not easy to be part of His people and His calling, because we need to speak out even when we don’t want to. Sadly, the people of Israel didn’t want to be a distinct people rather they preferred to be accepted by the other nations. Have you ever been accused of being religious, narrow-minded or a bigot because you believe in the morality taught in the Torah? It is our responsibility to do the right thing. The Creator doesn’t punish us when we fail, we simply suffer the consequences of our behaviour. We, who are faithful to the God of Israel need to speak out against injustice even if it is not popular. The silent majority is allowing the corrupt minority to win. Israel was chosen to be light to the world; light is meant to be seen; we cannot hide or run from our calling.

Why would the Creator repeatedly remind the people that He took them out of the land of Egypt? It is so easy for us to forget where we come from. Many of us have come to Canada as immigrants to find a better life for ourselves and our children. For most, the moment we become well-to-do, we forgot where we came from and why we left. The more comfortable we become, the more self-centred we tend to be, but the Creator warned us when we grow “fat”, do not forget Him (Deut.8:11-12), knowing that we usually remember Him only when we need Him. The Creator wants us to serve Him by taking care of others who are less fortunate – the widow, the orphan and the stranger among us and not to use Him for our benefit alone. Some people think that they will be blessed for serving Him but that is being utilitarian. Deut.10:12-20 speaks of how to love God and serve Him… we need to circumcise the foreskin of our hearts. The heart in Hebrew represents knowledge, will, volition. The foreskin is a covering and removing it means that we would be exposed and show others who we are. He knows our heart, our intention, we cannot fool or bribe Him. Hypocrisy has no place in the life of a true follower of the Creator. Doing charity or good works cannot buy Him. The Creator doesn’t want us to be slaves of anyone or anything, not even Him.

True love is unconditional. Moshe wanted to teach the people to start thinking about what they can do for others instead of what others could do for them. Children depend upon their parents until adulthood when the roles are reversed. It is important for them to remember who gave them life. The Israelites had depended entirely upon the Creator for the 40 years in the desert; now they would have to be independent. The Torah teaches us the importance of not developing a dependent mentality and about being able to discern between right and wrong, choosing and doing the right thing for ourselves and others. What do you do with all that you learn from the Scriptures? Do you apply the principles in your lives? Loving the Creator means that you identify with Him, serve Him; to serve is an action word; it is not about to be holy than thou, but about doing it!

It is important to remember and not forget, where you come from so that you can grow and change our mentality. Little by little, your past has to be dealt with, even if your loved ones accuse you of betraying them. When we discover the Creator, we can use past experiences to grow and live our best today.

The Creator is not our equal. There is a term “familiarity breeds contempt” but that can never apply to Him; we need to be reverent toward Him. This parashah is teaching us not to be afraid of others and that we need to clean our hearts from the past so that we can clearly see our way. We need to have an honest relationship with the Creator and come clean before Him. Are you clear about where you come from and where you are now? What are you afraid of?