Torah from Around the World #284

Recent Issues

Parashat Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25)

By: Rabbi Paul (Shaul) R Feinberg, PhD, Associate Dean, Emeritus and Adjunct Associate Professor of Education, Emeritus;

Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

, Jerusalem, Israel

Thanksgiving for the Land and Its Bounty

Thanksgiving for the Land and Its Bounty

Thanksgiving for Being Thankful

“…for the Eternal Your God is bringing you into a good, a land with streams, springs, and fountains, a land with barley, vines, and figs and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey… When you have eaten your fill give thanks to the Eternal your God for the good land (He) gave you.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-10)

Certainly our words of praise are in order for this litany of blessings as well as the abundance of all the goods that have been bestowed on us, “… for our lives which are in Your hand, for our souls which are in your care, for your miracles which we experience every day… for Your wonderful deeds and favor at every time of day, evening, morning, noon (Mishkan Tefila, p.176 ed. Elyse Frishman, CCAR, 2007).

But we dare not lose sight of the fact that from the outset God and humankind are in partnership as it is written, “The Holy One placed the first human beings into the garden, ‘to guard and care for it” [Genesis 2:15]. I imagine an exchange between the creator and the human creature at this point, with God’s reminder, “one does not live by bread alone, but from what proceeds out of My mouth…” (Deuteronomy 8:3)

Ramifications of Thanksgiving: Words and Deeds, Dependence and Interdependence

A fourth grade pupil answered my query, ’from where does our bread come, with’ from the grocery.’ Somehow my expectations were a little exaggerated that he would respond, “from the hand of God, the maker of heaven and earth! Of course I am being a little facetious (?!) but in time such an understanding could carry a long way. The transformation of nature’s raw material from wheat to bread may well bring a concomitant progressive change in human nature. The late Harold Schulweis, in this sprit offered his own insight as to the significance of ”


” before drinking a cup of wine—To Life! Beyond this, he suggests the meaning of “to lives”, i.e. the lives of others, (this writer’s emphasis), [In God’s Mirror, “Jewish Philosophy Squeezed in a cup of wine,” p.230, K’tav, 1990] and he adds, “one lives in this world with responsibility to oneself and to others! It is the Holy One of Blessing who sanctifies us that we may sanctify the world.” (p233)

Gratitude-The Quiet Courage

Gratitude-The Quiet Courage

Rabbi Norman Hirsh

Journal of Reform Judaism, CCAR 1987, pp 55-75

Rabbi Hirsh provides a contemporary understanding of the privilege as well as duty to offer blessings of thanksgiving, whatever one’s feelings are.  Either feelings of self-sufficiency, or senses of indifference, or unmitigated vulnerability can cause one to simply tune out any emotions. This is where Hirsh’s notion of ‘courage’ comes in. The Rabbi teaches us to address all realities when appropriate, uttering the words of Job, “The Eternal Gives, The Eternal Takes Away, Blessed Be the Name of the Eternal.” (1:21) By the same token, his holistic approach to life can give us new perspectives reflected in the classical expression for hearing good news, “Blessed are you, Eternal our God, who is Good and performs acts of goodness,” Or for hearing bad news, especially the death of a dear one, or anyone, “Blessed is the True Judge.” Realizing that many others may or may not share these inclinations, I hope that seeing the “picture” (or looking for it, day to day!) can be rewarding, even inspiring a way to differentiate times and changes in one’s life, not previously considered.

Giving Thanks for the Land, Its Bounty, and for the Act of Being Thankful

The Land is our Earth Mother, the Nurturer of all who live on her, and derive her sustenance. For our People, The Land [HAARETZ] is our sovereign home now for 67 years, and for our family 34 years since making Aliya. Physical bounty and spiritual renewal are ours to be cherished, reliving each day the return of our people from Exile. With this, other peoples too have made their homes here some with us as fellow citizens, others, across the Green Line, Judea and Samaria, and Gaza. Arabs with Israeli citizenship, Palestinians with aspirations like ours toward the realization of achieving a status quo, of ‘

two states for two peoples

.’ In reciting Motzi, and

Birkat HaMazon

, I at times think too of my non Jewish neighbors bound up with me, us in fateful ways that will demand reconciliation and compromises if we all are to live more fitfully and safely on the Land, nurturing family and livelihood and hopes for fully expressing national identify.

Despite the imperfections of our own governing sovereign democratic way of life, we Jews dare not give up on the dreams enshrined in  our Declaration of Independence: we are not only to be a refuge for the oppressed, a spiritual and political center for the renewing of culture and personal destiny, but an “opportunity!”  for the working out of a pluralistic and egalitarian society human rights and equality are hall marks of daily existence. But my diminishing euphoria—since having made


–will not cause me to descend into coarse cynicism. Amos Oz declared that we cannot allow ourselves to wallow in despair, notwithstanding continuous acts of terror, severe acts of discrimination, racial, religious, gender. We candidly admit to gross inequities, in educational funding, funding of cultural opportunities in non-Jewish sectors. The “Occupation” with its exploitations of human resources, of Arab minority erodes from within. But, at the same time, our Land, This Land, HaAretz is home to so many different kinds of Jews, who must learn—yes we must!—to seek understanding from and with one another, with the support of and beyond the confines of the High Court of Justice, and NGO’s especially seeking to protect human rights. Israel President, Reuven Rivlin exemplifies leadership promoting mutual toleration, the rule of law in its application and enforcement. He articulates our Jewish responsibility to know the heart of the stranger, from within our community and beyond. He has come to serve the nation of Israel with heartfelt will to bind up old and new wounds, from whom all must learn! Leading figures in the struggle from within our Movement like the late Rabbi David J Forman, founder of Rabbis for Human Rights is forever my source of inspiration. Rabbi Arik Asherman, Senior Rabbi and President of Rabbis for Human Rights, may he be blessed with long life is the voice and strong right arm of conscience in the field, for decades long service.

This too is the bounty of the Land, for which we give thanks, miracles and wonders daily! From generation to generation we nurture children and grandchildren to carry on in our spirit, thanking God for the Land, and its gifts… and for the act of being thankful.

Shabbat Shalom

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