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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Parshat Eikev – Command and Obedience, or Love and Affection

Posted by rabbiart on July 28, 2010


At shul this week we are reading the third triennial section of the parshah. In this section it is as if we were reading a duel between mitzvot and obedience on the one hand, and the longing for love and affection on the other.

As we near the end of the parshah we find the section of Torah that has been brought into the liturgy as the second paragraph of the Shema. This is the section known as kabbalat ol ha mitzvot, the acceptance of the yoke of the commandments. Many also think of this section as the ‘reward and punishment’ section. In short, this particular passage steers us in the direction of the “Old Testament” G-d, who is all about obedience and the fear of what happens when there is insufficient obedience.

But here and there the word ahavah shows up in the verses. In two verses in particular – Devarim 10:19-20 – we are told to love the convert (although in the Torah’s time, as opposed to later rabbinic literature, the pshat reading of the text is to love the stranger, as we were strangers in Egypt and certainly not converts there). In the opening of chapter 11 we learn that love of HaShem precedes observance of the commandments.

Finally, as we conclude the parshah, it finishes in a crescendo of love and connection. Beyond simply following and observing the mitzvot, we are encouraged to love HaShem and attach ourselves to HaShem, a concept brought to life in the concept of devekut or absolute cleaving to our creator. If we do this, we will see the realization of everything that has been promised us.

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