Ekev

“It is circumstance and proper timing that give an action its character and make it either good or bad.” This thinking of philosopher, Agesilaus (444-400 BCE) tends to typify the Greek view of the world, whereby human agency and the sovereign self-determine one’s fate. But in a world where bad things happen to good people, this proposed moral calculus of “circumstance and proper timing” stands in stark contrast to this week’s reading of Ekev. In continuing forward with his legacy speech, Moses’ address to the Children of Israel takes on the following tone of moral calculus: If you fulfill these commands then you will prosper in the Land of Israel. In Parshat Ekev, Moses continues his speech by further pointing to those moments of collective backsliding, like the Golden Calf, the rebellion of Korah and the spies. Moses is not merely pointing a finger, but offering an opening for work of forgiveness by the Merciful One and practicing the power of return, known as Teshuva—a devotional posture all but absent from Greek philosophy. This spiritual practice of Teshuva is ongoing, and especially important as we approach the month of Elul that precedes High Holidays. Within this description of the Land of Israel as “flowing with milk and honey”, we also learn about the beauty of the “seven species” (wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates, olive oil, and dates). This week then is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how each of us comes to terms with, or questions, this moral calculus in the ongoing journey of our relationship to the divine.