O holy Shabbes Inspiration Ekev
So God afflicted you and made you hungry
and had you eat the manna [translate: what it is]
which you had not known and which your ancestors had not known
in order to make
that not by bread alone do human beings live
but by everything that issues from the mouth of God
do human beings live. [Deut. 8:3]
Not by bread alone
we don’t live for money
slip me some bread Fred
it’s not enough.
The rabbis tell us that Torah is bread [Sifre on Ekev]
not by Torah alone do we live
we need the commentaries
to unfold the text
breathe into it.
No bread – no Torah
No Torah — no bread. [Avot 3:21]
No bread no Torah
here meaning no parnassah
it’s hard to be wise or holy or smart
for that matter
when you’re hungry.
No Torah no bread
the Dow fell a hundred points
because Mr. Merrill and Mr. Lynch
That’s the point:
it’s the Tao stupid.
It’s a hard point to make
Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya
you in the second generation of Tannaim
a person of wealth and good genes
you could trace your ancestry back ten generations
to the scribe Ezra
you became Nasi (prince-leader) as a young man
your beard turned white
so your colleagues would accept you
I’ve seen it happen.
What were you thinking?
No Torah, no bread?
No learning no wisdom no program
bread will never be enough
you are always hungry
money won’t do it
love won’t do it
drugs won’t do it
booze won’t do it
a person remains hungry
there will never be enough bread
to fill the emptiness that only Torah can fill.
And it shall come to pass
because [ekev] you listen to these ordinances [Ibn Ezra: if you listen]
and keep and do them
God will keep the covenant and the mercy
sworn to your ancestors. [Deut. 7:12]
don’t stomp on me with your foot
curious conjunction this – ekev –
we are expecting something more common
im for example if
but it’s ekev
translated because —
the mystery of the uncommon conjunction
something a preposition might admire
ekev also connotes heel
it refers to those acts
ordinarily not paid attention to [Midrash Tanhuma 1]
those that are thrown under our heels
so to speak
Rashi calls them the light ones
the ones that might not attract our attention
the unglamorous deeds
I LIVE FOR THEM
FOR EVERYTHING THAT ISSUES FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD
the conjunctions of the mitzvah world
their lovely low-li-ness.
Every generation is a heel generation
every person a heel person
everything previous rests on us
every act every word every gesture
to the what it is.
Every word every conjunction every preposition
every mitzvah light or heavy
We are the heel on which everything rests
Everything counts in some ultimate way
as hidden as the heel that supports
the weight of our bodies.
Ekev – Because you listen and safeguard and keep [Deut. 11:13-21]
you do for Me
I do for you
neat and balanced.
If the nature of the relationship is more nuanced —
If it turns on the lowly conjunction ekev
don’t insult that conjunction
be a conjunction for a while
be a preposition.
You know the laws that I gave you to protect?
Do them and I’ll keep the covenant and the kindnesses
You know the mitzvahs that you didn’t keep
the ones that you walked on
the ones that were thrown under your heel?
For that, too, I will keep the faith.
What you did and what you didn’t do
what you remembered and what you forgot
what you honored and what you desecrated
it all rests on the heel of your generation
maybe on you yourself
and only at the moment of transition
will it be clear that everything
every single thing
the big the small the good the bad
the beautiful the lowly the lofty
all of it.
Can you dig that?