Torah Weekly

For the week ending 11 August 2012 / 22 Av 5772

Parshat Ekev

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair - www.seasonsofthemoon.com
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Overview

If Bnei Yisrael carefully observe even those "minor" mitzvot that are usually "trampled" underfoot, Moshe promises them that they will be the most blessed of the nations of earth. Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael that they will conquer Eretz Canaan little by little, so that the land will not be overrun by wild animals in the hiatus before Bnei Yisrael are able to organize and settle the whole land. After again warning Bnei Yisrael to burn all carved idols of Canaanite gods, Moshe stresses that the Torah is indivisible and not open to partial observance. Moshe describes the Land of Israel as a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranates, a land of oil-yielding olives and date-honey. Moshe cautions Bnei Yisrael not to become haughty and think that their success in Eretz Yisrael is a result of their own powers or vigor; rather, it was Hashem who gave them wealth and success. Nor did Hashem drive out the Canaanites because of Bnei Yisrael's righteousness, but rather because of the sins of the Canaanites; for the road from Sinai had been a catalogue of large and small sins and rebellions against Hashem and Moshe. Moshe details the events after Hashem spoke the 10 Commandments at Sinai, culminating in his bringing down the second set of Tablets on Yom Kippur. Aharon's passing is recorded as is the elevation of the levi'im to Hashem's ministers. Moshe points out that the 70 souls who went down to Egypt have now become like the stars of the heaven in abundance. After specifying the great virtues of the Land of Israel, Moshe speaks the second paragraph of the Shema, conceptualizing the blessings that accompany keeping mitzvot and the curse that results from non-observance.

Insights

Fire

“The carved images of their gods you shall burn in the fire… for it is an abomination of Hashem, your G-d.” (7:25)

Our Sages teach us that extreme anger is like worshipping idols. What is the connection?

Imagine you’re a courtier in the palace of the king. While walking past you, one of the other courtiers treads on your toe. Rather than apologize, he turns around and pokes his tongue out at you.

Do you curse and shout at him? I doubt it. Not, that is, unless you are unconcerned about you head staying in nodding contact with the rest of your body. Your awe of the king, not to mention the fear of his punishment, make it easy for you to swallow your pride and smile a wan and insincere smile at your fellow courtier.

When a person becomes angry it’s as though he’s saying that he’s not in the courtroom of the king. Or worse – there is no courtroom, no king.

Everything in this physical world has a spiritual cause. Anger is always compared to fire. Anger ‘consumes’ like a fire the person who feels the anger. Anger turns the face flame red. Anger ‘burns you up’.

Sometimes, we even may get a glimpse of the connection of the spiritual to the physical.

The Hayman fire, the largest fire in the history of Colorado consumed tens of thousands of beautiful forestland. The fire was caused by a 38-year old Forest Service technician who took a letter from her estranged husband and burned it in anger. Apparently, she thought that she had extinguished the fire and left, only to find later that it was spreading out of control.

When we ignite the flames of wrath, it’s very difficult to put them out. If one act of anger can burn half a state, one shudders to think what happens in the spiritual forest-lands above when a Jew’s anger flames.

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