Eikev: Being Full

April 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Posted in Eikev | Leave a comment

(This blog was first posted on July 26, 2010.)

And you will eat and you will be full, and you will bless God, your God, for the good land that He has given to you.  Take care, lest you forget God … lest you eat and you are full, and you build good houses and you settle, and your herd and flock increase, and your silver and gold increase, and everything increases for you; and being raised high, your minds forget God, your God, who leads you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.  (Deuteronomy/Devarim 8:10-14)

And I will provide green plants in your field for your cattle, and you will eat and be full.  But take care for yourselves, lest your mind fools itself, and you desert and serve other gods and prostrate yourselves to them.  (Deuteronomy 11:15-16)

ve-achalta = and you will consume, eat, eat up, devour, feed

ve-savata = and you will be full, satiated, satisfied, surfeited

levav = heart (physically), mind (figuratively); the seat of all conscious thought, including both reasoning and feeling

Eating your fill is mentioned three times in this week’s Torah portion, Eikev (Result).  The first reference is cited in the Talmud as the foundation for the ancient and continuing Jewish tradition of saying blessings after meals.  This week’s Torah portion not only tells us to bless God after eating, but also gives us two reasons why:

—so that our minds don’t forget that all our material blessings come from God, and

—so that our minds don’t fool themselves into attributing these blessings to other “gods”.

When Deuteronomy was written, 1500 to 1700 years ago, the Israelites were in danger of attributing their material blessings to Canaanite fertility gods.  Today, we might mistakenly attribute an abundance of food to the agrochemical industry, or an abundance of material goods in general to capitalism, or to some other system humans have invented, forgetting that without the continuing miracle of life on Earth, we would have nothing.

But why does the Torah repeatedly refer not just to eating, but to being full, sated, satisfied?  I think that when humans are satisfied with something, we tend to take it for granted; we assume that it will always be there, without any additional care on their part.  We get careless, and forget to thank and appreciate the people who keep on helping us, or the mystery of the universe (a.k.a. God) that keeps on supplying our needs.  If your refrigerator is always full, you forget to thank the person who gets the groceries, or to bless the nature of life which lets plants grow and become food.

Whereas when we are hungry or needy, we’re on the lookout for help, and we’re more likely to appreciate anyone or anything that improves our lot.

Taking good situations for granted may or may not interfere with our material abundance.  But it always diminishes our spiritual abundance.  How many people with sufficient material wealth find themselves bored and miserable—empty and dissatisfied?  If we no longer appreciate and thank other people; if we no longer appreciate and express awe at the complex beauty of this world; if we no longer appreciate and bless the unfurlings of their own minds and psyches—then our lives will feel cursed rather than blessed.

Take care!  Don’t let your mind forget God, or forget that your material wealth must not be taken for granted.  Don’t let your mind fool you into neglecting the holy work of appreciating, feeling awe, thanking, and blessing.  Your happiness depends on it.

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