Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Eikev

One day, a young lady brought her boyfriend home to meet her parents. After a lovely dinner, dad asks to speak with the young man.

“So what are your plans?” the father asks the young man. “I am a Teacher,” he replies.

“A teacher? Hmmm,” the father says. “Admirable, but how will you provide a nice house for my daughter to live in, as she’s accustomed to?” “I will study,” the young man replies, “and God will provide for us.” “And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?” asks the father.
“I will concentrate on my studies,” the young man replies, “God will provide for us.” “And children?” asks the father. “How will you support children?” “Don’t worry, sir, God will provide,” replies the young man. The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father questions him, the young idealist insists that God will provide.

Later, the mother asks, “How did it go, honey?” The father answers, “The bad news is, he has no job, no prospects, and no idea how to be a good husband. But, the good news is that he thinks I’m God.”

The age-old borscht belt joke pokes fun at relationships and at the myopia of scholars. It roots in satire, but, intentionally or not, teaches a valuable lesson from Torah.

This week, Moses admonishes the people to pay attention. They have been relying on God’s manna for the years of the journey, but life’s value lies deeper. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by the word that proceeds out of the mouth of God does man live (Deut. 8:3)”

Certainly, we know that life transcends the kitchen table. Food is important, but only if it fuels our creative, empathetic, and celebratory plans. At this level, the statement is rather benign. Its spiritual value begins with the realization that the bread at issue is not just any food. It is manna, a spectacular and unique gift from the heavens.

Depending on God to provide is not enough. One must engage and study to derive the full benefit of living. Effectively, we learn that relying on God to do everything may be easy, but blind faith impedes our growth – stagnates our souls. St Augustine wrote, “Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.”

I must believe that heaven and earth touch in the moments and places where people internalize St. Augustine’s truth. Faith demands that we know that there is more out there than us. At the same time, it must compel us to open our eyes and ears to make ourselves aware of every moment and situation in which we can elevate ourselves and the whole world. We must learn more than we are convinced we know, hold people who are in need and celebrate with everyone’s joy. We get lost in our baggage, our ignorance, and our fears, but must know that there is more beyond our personal horizon.

Heart and soul, I believe that “heaven” manifests in our open hearts, our thirsty minds, and our outstretched arms. We cannot thrive in this realm without the faith necessary to both believe and transcend that belief. I love a Celtic saying that teaches us that heaven and earth are only three feet apart, and in some places, much closer. We spend our lives walking in both realms at the same time. Our heads need to be attuned to the call of our spirit. Our bodies need to respond to the needs and celebrations of the day. In this touching of the metaphysical/spiritual and the physical, we find a life well-lived.

Shabbat Shalom