Drash on Parashat Ekev: Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25
Rabbi Em Mueller, Sim Shalom Online Synagogue
August 23, 2016
This week’s Torah portion encompasses promises both good and bad: “And if you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, God will maintain faithfully for you the covenant that God made on oath with your fathers. God will favor you and bless you and multiply you . . .” And later: “if you forget, and worship other gods, you will perish.” The parashah concludes with these words which we say every day, as part of the v’ahavta: Set these words upon your heart, bind them as a sign upon your hand, let them serve as a symbol between your eyes, and speak them to your children and in your house and on your way and when you lie down and when you rise up; and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates . . .”
What are we to do with this? I, for one, do not believe that good things happen only to people who do good things, like following the commandments, especially since they are so contradictory! Do all liars and cheaters get their just reward? And why would we want to believe in this God? What purpose does this God serve? And why believe in a god at all? Many people don’t!
For me, the word God has come to mean Strength and Nourishment and Awe: Where do I find my Strength? What Nourishes me? If I can find something that nourishes me, then yes, I will teach that to my children, and talk about it with others, and seek out that nourishment, that Awe, so that I can be strong, especially when life gets more difficult.
Yes, I feel Awe at tornadoes and landslides and drought and flood, and of course pain for those affected. But when I turn to nature, I find God. As Rabbi Nachman of Bratslov said, “As often as you can, take a trip out to the fields to pray. All the grasses will join you. They will enter your prayers and give you strength to sing praises to God.