Food For the Soul
Bread, Bucks and Making a Living
Man does not live by bread alone. The verse comes from the Parsha Eikev, and is a reference to the miraculous manna, which fell from heaven daily during the Jewish people’s sojourn in the wilderness. The conclusion of the verse is that “rather, by the utterance of G-d’s mouth does man live.” Thus, it is reminding us about the true source of human sustenance.
The reality is that it is G-d who sustains us and looks after us, in the very same way as our ancestors trekking through the desert were totally dependent on Him for their daily bread. Wealth is a G-dly gift. At the end of the day, it is not our business acumen alone that provides our daily bread, but the blessings from Above which endow our efforts with success.
Ask anyone in sales how often their best-laid plans and pitches have come to naught, and then, out of the blue, a big order comes in with little or no effort. Of course, it’s not the rule, and we must be prepared to put in effort if we are to succeed. But when it does happen, it reminds us that there are higher forces, beyond our control, at work.
But there’s another meaning to this verse as well. The human spirit is such that we crave more than bread. Money is important, but we cannot live by money exclusively. What about job satisfaction? I know a number of individuals in our community who willingly gave up lucrative positions for less rewarding ones, because they found their work unstimulating. They were making lots of cash, but there was no emotional reward.
We have a deep-seated need to know that our life’s work is purposeful, physically and spiritually. When we understand that every good deed is attached to a complex spiritual apparatus, that our every action meshes with a systematic structure of cosmic significance, then our lives become endowed with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. We desperately need to know that, in some way, our work is helping others—that we are making a contribution to society beyond our own selfish needs. Then, we live. Then we are happy. Man does not live by bread alone. We simply cannot.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Fitness Training for the Soul
Resting on Shabbat may seem like a frustrating break from what needs to get done, when really it is what propels us even closer to our goals. It may seem counterintuitive, but recovery enhances our health and performance, and resting on Shabbat enhances our work and progress.
It’s a matter of perspective. We have the ability to look into the Torah that G-d gave us and see rules and limitations that supposedly “hold us back” from the things that we want in life. Or, we can look into the Torah and see the divine wisdom clothed in what appears at first to be boundaries and restrictions, but what are really building blocks propelling us beyond anything we could have imagined.
From an article by Rachel Graff
Mind Over Matter
When our universe as we know it first emerged, the soil of the earth was imbued with a wondrous power—the power to generate life. Place a tiny seed in the ground and it converts the carbon of the air into a mighty redwood—a decomposing seed awakens the power of the infinite.
Yet another miracle, even more wondrous: A quiet act of kindness buried in humility ignites an explosion of G-dly light.
Infinite power is hidden in the humblest of places.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Curses and Impudence
Eikev, the name of the parshah, is also the term that describes ikveta de’Meshicha, the period right before the coming of Moshiach. Our sages foretold that in this period, “each day’s curse will be worse than that of the preceding day.” Why would they tell us so somber a prophecy? If we had not been foretold about this situation, the Jewish people might have become dispirited and lost hope. The Torah thus informed us that the final stage of the galut will be terribly perplexing and frustrating, in order that we take heart, keep faith, and strengthen our service of G-d with greater effort in the full knowledge and conviction that the redemption is about to happen! We are also foretold that in ikveta de’Meshicha impudence (chutzpah) will increase. [It] should be utilized in a positive way: persistently asking and demanding of G-d that Moshiach should appear and redeem us. There is no doubt that G-d is pleased with this kind of “impudent” demand and will respond to it accordingly.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
My Perfect Pair of Heels
I recently bought the perfect pair of black pumps. The heels were just the right height to be classy and elegant while at the same time comfortable to walk in for hours. The only problem with my shoes was that I liked wearing them so much that the heels soon became so worn out that they urgently needed the shoemaker’s deft craftsmanship.
You wouldn’t think that something so small and so low down would actually have such an impact. But think again.
The heels on our feet, too, have important functions, including:
- helping move and flex the toes
- helping the calf’s muscles
- evenly distributing and stabilizing any force exerted on it
- bearing the brunt of the body’s load during walking
- and the heels are one of the most highly vascularized regions of the body surface
The foot’s heel is covered by connective tissue that is up to two centimeters thick to absorb the forces exerted on it, especially when it makes contact with the ground.
Eikev, means “if,” and begins with the verse “If you will listen to these commandments . . .” The word eikev also alludes to ikveta di-meshicha, the generation of “the heels of Moshiach.” This is a reference to the last generation of exile, because, like the heel, it is spiritually the lowest generation, in which the darkness of exile is most intense. This generation is most removed from spirituality and holiness. But it is in this generation that the footsteps—heels—of Moshiach can already be heard.
And we are that generation!
In past generations, we had the minds of our nation—a nation provided with a spiritual wisdom to understand the will of G-d. At other times, we were a nation of hearts—our belief was infused with sensitivity and passion. In still other eras, we had penetrating eyes, seeing a perceptive, far-reaching vision.
But our generation represents the heel.
This simple Jew today may not be as spiritually accomplished as in the past, but his faith and commitment are even greater. For in the end, the heel of the foot is what supports the entire body, carrying it to its final destination. The Talmud relates that when Rabbi Banaah caught a glimpse of Adam’s heels, he said, “They shone like two suns.”
Despite all that we’ve been through as a people, after suffering centuries of the harshest exiles, pogroms, and persecutions, we may represent Adam’s lowly heels. But like Adam’s heels, look how this nation is shining. As bright and luminous, as radiant and brilliant as the sun.