2014-08-14

Rabbi Meir Azari’s Dvar Torah – Parashat Ekev

Parashat Eikev

By Rabbi Meir Azari, Senior Rabbi at Beit-Daniel and Head of the Daniel Centers for Progressive Judaism in Tel-Aviv Jaffa.

 

Two of Israel’s greatest prophets, Moses and Elijah, won the ultimate prize of going to Mount Sinai, to Horeb.  Moses, the Hero of the book of Deuteronomy, leaves his second encounter with god in Horeb, an event described in this week’s Parasha, as a winner.

As he goes down Mount Sinai, Moses carries the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, which are the heart of the Jewish tradition and the monotheistic faith as one.

Many years later, Elijah steps off Mount Sinai and the only thing he carries with him, probably until his last day, is the strange question that god asks him – “what is there here for you, Elijah?” – in other words – what do you want from me? Why are you here?

In our Parasha, Moses returns to the mountain upset, defeated, and, without a doubt, with a sense of insult over the ingratitude of the people for the worship of the Golden Calf. But unlike Elijah, who seeks revenge on the faithless, Moses asks God for repair and forgiveness for the people.

These are two prophets climbing the same mountain with a different purpose and a different result.

Moses doesn’t seek death (although he and his men have killed many in the camp). As he climbs up the mountain, he asks God to help the sinners and the weak rise from the pit of the Golden Calf to holiness. Moses, in his reaction to the moral disaster of building the Golden Calf, doesn’t only ask to punish the sinners, but mostly to rebuild and come out stronger as a people looking towards what the future holds.

Moses understands it is easy to react harshly and angrily. It is easy to demolish, destroy, and break… but is there any value in doing so? Can destruction build a future? After breaking the tablets and illustrating his disappointment, Moses understands that it is time to turn to repairing the terrible reality, that it is time to pick up the pieces and heal the wounded body and soul of the people.

According to Midrash Shimoni, God is angry at Moses for breaking the tablets: had you carved out the tablets yourself, he tells him, you wouldn’t have broken them.

Now you must learn, says God to Moses, that anger should not only bring destruction, but also, and perhaps mostly, an act of repair.

Go and carve out the tablets, says God to Moses, work hard, and despite the failure crying out from the battered camp, now is the time for the creation that will arise from your anger at the behavior of the people. Go and repair.

And so, perhaps the lesson Moses got from God is as relevant as ever. These days, after a month of battle in Gaza, we cannot let anger and fracture, like Elijah’s, lead us to the path of destruction. Instead, we need to learn from Moses how to do our best to fix the fractures and destruction and rise from adversity to better days and to holiness.

The act of repairing is difficult and complex. It requires much work, creativity and sensitivity, and now is the time to wish our leaders and the leaders of the Middle East to have the sensitivity and wisdom that Moses had.

May the words of the Prophet Isaiah (which sign this week’s haphtarah) come true as we seek comfort and hope after these difficult days of battle: ” Like the garden of God; joy and happiness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and a voice of song.” (Isiah, 51:3).

 

 

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