Shabbat Parashat Eikev| 5763
The Land where numbers don’t count
Do you want to encourage aliya from the industrialized world during times of financial crisis in Israel? Do you want to give people hope that they will weather the storm when the financial numbers, macro and micro, don’t leave much room for hope? Teach people to close their eyes and ignore the numbers a little bit.
The Torah tells us that Hashem’s eyes are constantly (tamid) on the Land of Israel from the beginning of the year until year’s end (Devarim 11:12). On one hand, this seems to imply that nothing is ever set and permanent in Eretz Yisrael, that Hashem is constantly and actively involved in the produce of the Land. On the other hand, there are sources that several things are decided on Rosh Hashana, even in regard to Eretz Yisrael.
The gemara (Rosh Hashana 17b, alluded to by Rashi) brings a solution. The amount of rain, for example, is set exactly on Rosh Hashana and will not change whether we do teshuva during the year or spiritually deteriorate. What our actions and continuous Divine Providence affect is how these are apportioned. The same amount of rain falling at the right time (see 11:14) and the right place can bring prosperity, while the wrong combinations can bring little help or even devastating floods. One can understand the metaphor of Hashem’s eyes as not only determining whether we deserve good things or bad ones, but also of looking where to put the apportioned bounty. While this phenomenon can, in theory, occur anywhere, the Torah tells us that this type of providence is a trademark of Eretz Yisrael.
A few p’sukim later (11:15) the Torah tells of another blessing: “And you shall eat and be satiated”. Rashi explains that one is not necessarily satiated strictly by the volume or even quality of a food. Rather, a bracha is sent to the food, within the digestive system, which allows the person to feel satiated. We now see that neither the quantity of rain nor even the food, which it helped grow, will determine whether a person is hungry or satiated.
I heard a beautiful idea on the parasha from Rav Zev Leff, which opens a third outlook. “A land where not out of deprivation shall you eat bread, nothing shall be missing from it” (8:9). He explains that even if one ends up eating simple bread and not some expensive delicacy, it need not be out of deprivation. Rather one can learn in Eretz Yisrael that, with all of the truly significant things to do here, you don’t need more than bread. In other words, with an improved set of priorities, a salary which wouldn’t normally seem sufficient to provide the “necessities of life,” suddenly turns out to provide all the “real necessities of life”.
As those of us who are blessed to live in Israel know, many of us don’t know exactly how we do it. Many happy families would not be here if they had worked out the numbers exactly. The more we close our eyes, the wider Hashem opens His, and that’s a good trade off. “Blessing is found only by something that is hidden [from] the eye” (Ta’anit 8b). The simple explanation is that human eyes are removed from the matter. We can say, homiletically, that the hidden blessings are a result of the Divine Eyes.
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