Good Shabbos!
I dedicate his parsha post as a refuah sheleimah for Tova bas Sarah, and two twin toddlers from L.I., who were incredibly saved from a near-drowning.


This week’s parsha is Eikev.  It is bursting from its first to last word, replete with themes and morals, as Moshe Rabbeinu continues to recapitulate the Torah’s teachings, and the nation’s history, preparing the Bnei Yisroel to enter the Promised Land.


“Kol-hamitzvah asher anochi m’tzav’cha hayom tish’m’run la’asot lma’an tichyun urvitem uvatem virishtem et-ha’aretz asher nishba Hashem la’avoteichem.  V’zacharta et-kal-haderech asher holich’cha Hashem Elokecha zeh arbayim shana bamidbar lma’an l’nasotcha lada’as et-asher bilvavcha hatishmor mitzvosav I’m-lo.  Vayancha vayarivecha vaya’achil’cha et-hamahn asher lo-yadata v’lo yadun avosecha l’ma’an hodiaiycha ki lo al-halechem l’vado yichyeh ha’adam ki al-kal-motza pi-Hashem yichyeh ha’adam. — The entire commandment that I command you today you shall observe to perform, so that you may live and increase, and come and possess the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers.  You shall remember the entire road on which Hashem, your G-d, led you these forty years in the Wilderness so as to afflict you, to test you, to know what is in your heart, whether you would observe His commandments or not.  He afflicted you and let you know hunger, then He fed you manna that you did not know, nor did your forefathers know, in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live, rather by everything that emanates from the mouth of Hashem.” {Devarim 8:1-3}

Examine the third pasuk, “Vayancha…/He afflicted you…”.  Can you identify the seeming contradiction in the verse?

We are reminded above that Hashem “afflicted” our ancestors and caused them to “hunger”, and He gave them a great “test”…  But He provided them with manna, with an incredible nourishment that sustained them on even more than a physical level, and possessed many wondrous properties!  G-d’s kindnesses in the Midbar are further enumerated in following verses, some of which were that their clothes miraculously never became filthy or worn out, and that Hashem caused water to gush from a rock.  Where exactly was the tribulation and suffering that G-d imposed?  Weren’t practically all of the unfortunate incidents, that occurred on the journey, on the Bnei Yisroel’s account, because of their complaints and rebellion?  How was the blessed mun (manna) a nisayon (challenge)?

To answer, let us try to define what affliction and hunger mean, in this context.

R’ Yehoshua Gordon ob”m, suggested that you imagine how the Bnei Yisroel could have been quite frustrated with their manna.  Although, the Midrash elucidates, the mun could taste as whatever food one desired it to, it always retained the same appearance:  a seedlike, crystalline piece.  Most of us can’t fail to recognize the power of aesthetic (visual) appeal.  How else do advertisements draw our attention?  Why else do we admire our beautifully set Shabbos tables (prepared l’kavod Shabbos kodesh, of course!)?  For what other reason do restaurants and caterers invest so much time and energy in creating that “perfect plate”, garnish and all?  The Bnei Yisroel could have become fed up (please excuse the chance pun) with their forty years of heavenly food, since it always looked the same.  They hungered with their eyes (reminiscent of, and perhaps warned about, by the Shema’s “…v’lo taturu acharei l’vavchem v’acharei ainaychem asher atem zonim achareihem – …and not explore after your heart and your eyes after which you stray.”), which, although not the most rational in their particular circumstance, is understandable in terms of general human nature.  We all want things to look nice.  In fact, we should make an effort to make them so.  However, when you are in the desert for four decades, and Ribono Shel Olam is providing you every single day with the “bread of angels”, one’s appreciation probably shouldn’t be contingent on how diverse his meals look.  This speaks to us today as well.  Although the appearance of something is definitely important, it is not the main thing.  It is not the essence.  It shouldn’t be the central intention and focus.

The second ‘concern’ the nation might have had with the mun, was complete and utter dependence on Hashem.  Hashem rained down the gift of mun daily, blanketed between the morning dew, which each person would go and gather, according to his and his family’s needs.  Every day (with the exception of Shabbos morning– on erev Shabbos, a double portion would fall, since gathering was asur on the Sabbath.  Hence, we have lechem mishna, two loaves, at our Shabbos seudos, to remember this blessing.), because it was forbidden to stash the mun overnight for the next day.  If one transgressed with this, they would discover their leftovers in the morning, decaying and infested.  Yes…  gross.  This was one consequence that put the nation into the position of humble receivers.  Their source of energy and family’s nourishment, was entirely in G-d’s hands (and is eternally so).

They had to possess the middah (trait) of sincere bitachon, trust.  Trust in a higher, all-encompassing, all-caring power, that He’d give them their daily bread.  It’s true, that it’s sometimes a great test to have trust in Hashem in times of pain or worry.  It is hard to go to bed, wondering what the next day will bring, if your pantry’s empty, or your child is going off the derech, or when you’re waiting for a reply of acceptance to your resume or proposal…  it seems like the scenarios are infinite.  Discovering whether or not we would prove to be faithful to Him and His Torah, even in times of great challenge or suffering, Hashem probed our hearts, as declared in verse 2, with the mun.  He searched to see if we would consistently place our bitachon in Him, in realization that every test is formative and a growth experience, that whatever occurs is only for the good, and belief that it’s not because of our hand and might that we have bounty and blessing… but it is only Hashem who provides.

Yes, we must put in our effort, to gather what we need to live.  But what we think we need, might not match up, with what the One Who made us knows we require, Who has something better in store.  If we thought that the mun we hoarded would be the proper food for us, G-d showed us that He had something better in mind.  In the (paraphrased) words of the Rashbam: “In our uncertainty, due to not possessing tangible food while we waited for our next portion, we were compelled to adopt trust that our blessing would be spread out for us on the desert floor the next day.”  And over forty years, this trait of bitachon became ingrained into our characters and psyche, and may just be one of the greatest keys to Jewish survival.

Now we see, the concern for the next day’s sustenance over which they had absolutely no direction, was the affliction the nation would undergo, unless they otherwise elevated themselves above the mundane worry, and succeeded in the struggle for whole and unswerving bitachon.


Now, for a bit about the conclusion of this collection of verses:  “…l’ma’an hodiaiycha ki lo al-halechem l’vado yichyeh ha’adam ki al-kal-motza pi-Hashem yichyeh ha’adam. – …in order to make you know that not by bread alone does man live, rather by everything that emanates from the mouth of Hashem.”

A famous verse.  But how deeply do we actually understand it?

A simple, yet profound interpretation (although there are many), a gem of Kabbalah:  This test of the mun, and the dependence on Hashem that it taught us, revealed to us a mystery of creation.  We cannot claim that it is by our hands that our bread, our food, and our possessions, came into being.  “Someone” (can you guess Who?), in the item’s very beginning, formed it, and invested it with a Divine spark, G-dly energy, the force of life, enabling it to be, and to serve a purpose in the physical world.  And that same Someone guided it through every step of the process, until the item came into our ownership, with His intention and blessing.  We cannot declare that this loaf of bread, for example, is separate from G-d, devoid of holy energy, and that it is the masterpiece of our physical hands.  For what is it, truly, that sustains us in the bread, and keeps us going?  It is only the G-dly spark that causes it to be, and that nourishes the soul, which in turn fuels us to exist, and fulfill our purpose: To reconnect everything and everyone with the Divine.  Hashem is the Makor (Source) of everything, and the world’s survival is dependent in His will and wish, whatever emanates from the mouth of Hashem.


May we all be blessed with clear and strong bitachon in the One Above, and recognition of Him and His Hand in every area of our lives.

The Messenger Bird