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Parshat Hashavua: Grounding ourselves

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Parshat Hashavua: Grounding ourselves

This week’s Torah section, Eikev, opens with the phrase vehaya eikev tishme’oon,” which is also translated as “And ought to you obey” (Deuteronomy 7: 12). One amongst the joy of translating, interpreting and dealing out the Torah is in the richness of its phrases, containing so many strata of that diagram. The note eikev, which also offers our parsha its identify, is as an instance. The three-letter root, or shoresh, of eikev is ayin-koof-bet, that diagram “heel, deceitful, overreach.”

Rashi’s commentary on our opening verse in this instance makes a speciality of “heel” because the operative that diagram of the note eikev: “If even the lighter commands which a person in overall treads on their heels [i.e., which a person is inclined to treat lightly], you will listen to enact.” We’re no longer to imperfect the 613 mitzvot. They are all important.

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Rabbi Ellie Munk writes, “Indeed, can one advise that the characteristic of the lungs, or coronary heart, or kidneys, or belly or liver in the human physique is more important than the others? The ‘organism’ that is the Torah obeys the identical rule and would possibly maybe maybe maybe maybe no longer exist if even one of its constituent parts turned into as soon as abandoned.”

One wrong diagram to contain eikev is “on the heels of,” connecting the opening of our parasha to the live of the outdated parasha (Torah section). Etz Hayim provides that the note eikev frames the foundation of the parasha as a literary unit, with the note eikev then learned in verse 8: 20.

Ayin-koof-bet can be the shoresh of the identify Ya’acov, the patriarch Jacob. We be taught about his identify in the birthing scene with his twin brother, Esau: “Then his brother emerged keeping on the heel of Esau, so they named him Jacob.” (Genesis 25: 26) From birth, Jacob is believed to be a heel; anyone who is contemptibly dishonorable. He lives up to that essence of his identify in the predominant chapters of his existence.

Handiest after the tables are grew to become on him by his deceitful uncle Laban does Jacob confront his darker self. That job culminates with the wrestling scene on the banks of Jabbok River with an entity he describes as “a Divine being.” All over that stumble on, his identify is modified from Jacob/heel to Yisrael/Israel – “one who wrestles with beings Divine and human.” (Genesis 32: 29-31)

Amy Gabriel, a researcher on the Center for Hebraic Notion, offers this tantalizing insight: “The tales of Achilles and Jacob also fragment important similarities: Each and every deal with the complications with human weakness, of battling destiny (or windfall), and of the in overall mysterious will of the Divine.”

Jacob’s whisper from being named and acting as a deceitful heel to a wrestler with Divine beings is believed to be a model paradigm of religious whisper. Many religions, including Judaism, elevate the religious over the physical. How we realize a notorious verse from this week’s parasha is such an instance. We be taught that “a person doesn’t live by bread on my own.” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

BEFORE WE peruse the that diagram of the textual screech, Rabbi Marc Saperstein makes the next appealing and important level about translating: “At Harvard Divinity College, I as soon as heard a Chinese professor of religion observation that other folks who translate the Bible into Chinese must maintain a classic decision about whether to render the familiar verses by the Chinese equivalents of ‘Man doesn’t live by bread on my own’ and ‘Give us in this level in time our on a standard basis bread’ (Matthew 6: 11), or to render them as ‘Man doesn’t live by rice on my own’ and ‘Give us in this level in time our on a standard basis rice.’ To use the Chinese note for ‘bread’ – which is nonexistent in the Chinese food design – would straight away counsel that the biblical textual screech comes from an alien culture, one thing that the Chinese would possibly maybe maybe maybe successfully think as applying to others, nonetheless no longer on to them. Substituting the note for ‘rice’ conveys the that diagram in a capacity that feels great more inclusive, but it loses the ancient setting of the passage. Right here’s a essential problem in translation: Attain you preserve the cultural markers of the usual textual screech or enact you render its that diagram in phrases familiar to the culture of the unique studying community?”

At face price, our verse seems rather sure – there would possibly maybe be more to existence than physical sustenance, represented by bread, in this biblical sentence; we are also sustained spiritually. However, we desire to be taught the fuller context of our verse to observe its staunch that diagram (Deuteronomy 8:2-3): “Keep in mind how the Lord your God led you your complete diagram in the wasteland these 40 years, to humble and take a look at you in snarl to know what turned into as soon as for your coronary heart, whether or no longer it is seemingly you’ll per chance maybe per chance maybe preserve God’s commands. God humbled you, causing you to hunger after which feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to coach you that a person doesn’t continue to exist bread on my own nonetheless on each note that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

As Rabbi Saperstein says, the that diagram of the verse within its context is, “You don’t need bread, you can be in a field to outlive physically on one thing else. That’s very a form of from what we buy it to mean.” The more religious interpretation of the textual screech takes precedence because of the the primacy religion locations on spirituality over the physical. Yet maybe the lesson here is that after we focal level on the religious on the expense of the physical, we would also lose out.

A deeply religious and religious existence contains the hunt, the longing towards the transcendent, the pull to Something greater than who we are. It in most cases is a for shuffle extremely effective pursuit that will per chance maybe give the particular person a deep sense of reason, as successfully as being grounded with feelings of wholeness and contentment. These are all-important human qualities for residing a fulfilled and meaningful existence. And but, after we allow the religious to eclipse the physical, will we frequently cross over, ignore or misunderstand those standing subsequent to us?

Sure, we are searching out for to emulate Jacob, who becomes the wrestler on the religious aircraft. Yet we also must remain grounded, our heels touching the earth, the opposite folks and the actuality wherein we also live. ■

The creator is rabbi emeritus of the Israel Congregation, Manchester Center, Vermont, and a college member

of the Arava Institute for Environmental Analysis

and Bennington School

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Parshat Hashavua: Grounding ourselves