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		                                    Thinking Torah Blog		                                </span>

08/03/2023 05:00:02 PM


Cantor Regina Lambert-Hayut

This week’s Torah portion is called Eikev, which means consequence or reward. Moses speaks quite a bit about the rewards that the Israelites will receive by way of a good life on the land, good harvests, increasing herds, etc. if they can only follow God’s commandments.

Much of what is alluded to is thanking God by remembering what was done for the Israelites through the wilderness in relative safety and comfort.

Deuteronomy 10 verse 16 states: Cut away, therefore, the thickening of your hearts (literally ‘circumcise the foreskin around your hearts’) and stiffen your necks no more. This may sound like a rather odd way of expressing the sentiment of keeping an open heart and a flexible spirit.

In trying to unpack this verse a little, Rabbeinu Bahya, a 14th Century commentator stated, “The term ‘foreskin’ is used when the Torah or the prophet wants to describe a negative character trait, a trait which inhibits development of a personality to its full potential. Anyone who is burdened with such an impediment to one’s personality development cannot truly embrace the commandments and to understand their true value.” God often called the Israelites a ‘Stiff-Necked people’. By saying ’stiffen your necks no more’, Moses is warning this free-born generation to avoid the same stubbornness their parents exhibited when they cried to return to the comforts they knew in Egypt, embraced false gods and idols…

It is not easy for us to cut away the thickening of our hearts. How often have we come across a situation in which we find it hard to be open to possibilities that go against our way of thinking or being? 

In the Tur HaAroch (14th C commentary) it is stated: Moses, in addressing the new generation, a generation that had not been raised in Egypt, tells the people not to allow themselves to become victims of the same errors their fathers had become victims of, and not to be brainwashed by concepts that had proven utterly false.

We have much to consider when we receive new information. Keeping an openness is so important if we are to make our best decisions. When we close ourselves to possibilities, to information and to each other, we run the risk of continuing to dig into preconceived notions that may not necessarily be productive. If there is anything that Eikev tries to remind us, it is that it us up to us to open our hearts as much as possible and try to be flexible to explore possibilities.

Tue, December 5 2023 22 Kislev 5784