Shabbat-Table Talks: Eqeb

By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil <tawil@bezeqint.net>

[This week's Table Talks is dedicated in loving memory of Mordechai ben Rachel Sabbagh a"h, by his son Joe.]

Value: Growing from Adversity. Lifeís inevitable difficulties can be reframed as opportunities for growth. Teaching our children this attitude can help them focus on constructive self-improvement when faced with difficulties, rather than pointless complaining or blaming. Remembering that the difficulty is really Godís challenge to make a "better you" will lead to creative ways of improving ourselves to overcome the difficulty. We end up better for having gone through the challenge.

Context: Moshe, in his farewell speech to Israel, helped Israel understand their history and specific events in the wilderness. As Israel is about to enter the land, it is important that they have the proper attitude towards its prosperity, and understand that the suffering in the wilderness was in fact preparation for entry into the land. Moshe wants to ensure that Israel learns the proper lessons from its history so that they will be better suited to meeting the challenge of settling the land.

Text: Deuteronomy 8:1-5

All the commandments that I command you this day you will observe, that you may live, and multiply and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to your fathers. And you shall remember all the way that the Lord your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to afflict you and to challenge you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He afflicted you and made you hunger. He fed you with manna, of which you knew not and neither did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but by what proceeds out of Godís mouth man lives. Your clothing did not wear out upon you and your foot did not swell these forty years. You should also consider in your heart that as a man chastises his son, so the Lord your God chastised you.

Analysis: What was the lesson that Bne Yisrael were supposed to learn by their experience with the Manna? (That man lives by what God commands. If God wants man to live eating manna, thatís what man lives on. God controls nature and man has to be ready to follow Godís will.) [Note that the usual explanation of the English phrase "man does not live by bread alone," namely that people need something in addition to the basic foods, differs greatly from the Torahís intention with this verse.] Being hungry and having to trust in God to bring the manna every morning was a challenge whose purpose was that Israel should learn through experience that manís sustenance is always dependent upon God. That lesson could be repeated many times, but only by experiencing the day-to-day dependence upon God was Israel able to fully absorb the idea. Although hunger was a difficulty, Israel was to learn and grow from that difficulty.

Discussion: The Torah compares Godís afflicting Israel as a father disciplining his child. Can you explain what the Torah means by this comparison? (Just as a loving parent disciplines his child to improve him, for his ultimate good, so God chastised Israel. God, made things difficult, for Bne Yisrael in order to improve Bne Yisrael so that they would be better able to meet the challenge of entering the land (see additional text and discussion for more on this topic.)

Why does a parent discipline his child? Is it because the parent is mean? (A parent disciplines his child in order to teach him the right way. The parent who truly loves his child wants him to be safe and to do the right things. Discipline is the way that parents do this.)

What are some challenges that we sometimes have to face? (Look for examples that are realistic for your children. Choose examples that are relevant to them. Discuss with your children how to turn those setbacks into opportunities for growth.)

Additional Text: 8:6-11 (Continuation of the above text)

Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to fear him. For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; A land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig tress, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive and honey; A land wherein you shall eat bread without scarceness, you shall not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you may dig brass. When you have eaten and are full, they you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land that He has given you.

The land was so "naturally" good that God wanted to make sure that Bne Yisrael always would know that manís prosperity and sustenance comes only from God. The manna that Israel waited for on a daily basis was the means whereby God educated Israel. This preparation was necessary for the time when the land would appear to provide for Israelís needs. Bne Yisrael suffered the difficult conditions of hunger in order to grow as a people. We should likewise use our difficulties as challenges to grow into better people.

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***Community Announcement***

Next Wednesday (August 15th) Mrs. Vicki Harary will be giving a class at Congregation Zvi Lazadik (75 Hathaway Ave.) at 8:30PM. The topic is "The Key to Healthy Relationships" and is in memory of Natalie Rosenn, sponsored by her daughters June Rudy and Cheryl Esses.

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Shabbat Table Talks is a publication of the Sephardic Orthodox Union.