As told in Deuteronomy 7:12–11:25, this is the story of the Torah reading Eikev:
Blessings of obedience
Moses told the Israelites that if they obeyed God’s rules, God would faithfully maintain the covenant, would bless them with fertility and agricultural productivity, and would ward off sickness.
Taking the land
Moses directed the Israelites to destroy all the peoples whom God delivered to them, showing no pity and not worshiping their gods. Moses told the Israelites not to fear these nations because they were numerous, for the Israelites had but to recall what God did to Pharaoh and the Egyptians and the wonders by which God liberated them. God would do the same to the peoples whom they feared, and would send a plague against them, too. God would dislodge those peoples little by little, so that the wild beasts would not take over the land. Moses directed the Israelites to burn the images of their gods, not to covet nor keep the silver and gold on them, nor to bring an abhorrent thing into their houses.
God made the Israelites travel the long way in the wilderness for 40 years to test them with hardships to learn what was in their hearts and whether they would keep God’s commandments. God subjected them to hunger and then gave them manna to teach them that man does not live on bread alone, but on what God decrees. Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell for 40 years. God disciplined them as a man disciplines his son.
Moses told the Israelites that God was bringing them into a good land, where they might eat food without end, and thus when they had eaten their fill, they were to give thanks to God for the good land that God had given them. Moses warned the Israelites not to forget God, not to violate God’s commandments, and not to grow haughty and believe that their own power had won their wealth, but to remember that God gave them the power to prosper. Moses warned that if they forgot God and followed other gods, then they would certainly perish like the nations that God was going to displace from the land. Moses warned the Israelites not to believe that God had enabled them to possess the land because of their virtue, for God was dispossessing the land’s current inhabitants because of those nations’ wickedness and to fulfill the oath that God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
The golden calf
Moses exhorted the Israelites to remember how they had provoked God to anger in the wilderness from the day that they left Egypt until that day. At Horeb (Mount Sinai) they so provoked God that God was angry enough to have destroyed them. Moses ascended the mountain, stayed on the mountain 40 days and nights, and ate no bread and drank no water. At the end of the 40 days, God gave Moses two stone tablets that God had inscribed with the words and the covenant that God had addressed to the Israelites. God told Moses to hurry down, for the people whom Moses brought out of Egypt had acted wickedly and had made a molten image. God told Moses that God was inclined to destroy them and make of Moses a nation far more numerous than they. Moses started down the mountain with the two tablets in his hands when he saw how the Israelites had made themselves a molten calf. Moses smashed the two tablets before their eyes, and threw himself down before God, fasting another 40 days and nights. God gave heed to Moses. God was angry enough with Aaron to have destroyed him, so Moses also interceded for Aaron. Moses burned the calf, ground it into dust, and threw its dust into the brook that came down from the mountain.
Moses reminded the Israelites how they provoked God at Taberah, at Massah, and at Kibroth-hattaavah. And when God sent them from Kadesh-barnea to take possession of the land, they flouted God’s command and did not put their trust in God.
When Moses lay prostrate before God those 40 days, because God was determined to destroy the Israelites, Moses prayed to God not to annihilate God’s own people, whom God freed from Egypt, but to give thought to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and ignore the Israelites’ sinfulness, else the Egyptians would say that God was powerless to bring them into the land that God had promised them.
Thereupon God told Moses to carve out two tablets of stone like the first, come up the mountain, and make an ark of wood. God inscribed on the tablets the Ten Commandments that were on the first tablets that Moses had smashed, and Moses came down from the mountain and deposited the tablets in the Ark.
The Israelites marched to Moserah, where Aaron died and was buried, and his son Eleazar became priest in his stead. From there they marched to Gudgod, and on to Jotbath.
God set apart the Levites to carry the Ark of the Covenant, to stand in attendance upon the Tabernacle, and to bless in God’s Name, and that was why the Levites were to receive no portion of the land, as God was their portion.
Exhortations to serve God
Moses exhorted the Israelites to revere God, to walk only in God’s paths, to love God, to serve God with all their heart and soul, and to keep God’s commandments. Moses noted that although heaven and earth belong to God, God was drawn to love their fathers, so that God chose the Israelites from among all peoples. Moses described God as supreme, great, mighty, and awesome, showing no favor and taking no bribe, but upholding the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriending the stranger. Moses thus instructed the Israelites to befriend the stranger, for they were strangers in Egypt. Moses exhorted the Israelites to revere God, worship only God, and swear only by God’s name, for God was their glory, who wrought for them marvelous deeds, and made them as numerous as the stars.
Moses exhorted the Israelites to love God and always keep God’s commandments. Moses asked the Israelites to note that they themselves witnessed the signs that God performed in Egypt against Pharaoh, what God did to Egypt’s army, how God rolled upon them the waters of the Sea of Reeds, what God did for them in the wilderness, and what God did to Dathan and Abiram when the earth swallowed them. Moses instructed them therefore to keep all the law so that they might have the strength to enter and possess the land and long endure on that land flowing with milk and honey. Moses extolled the land as a land of hills and valleys that soaks up its water from the rains, a land that God looks after.
Then Moses told them words now found in the Shema prayer: If the Israelites obeyed the commandments, loving God and serving God with heart and soul, God would grant the rain in season and they would gather their grain, wine, and oil. God would provide grass for their cattle and the Israelites would eat their fill. Moses warned them not to be lured away to serve other gods, for God’s anger would flare up against them, God would suspend the rain, and they would soon perish. Moses urged them to impress God’s words upon their heart, bind them as a sign on their hands, let them serve as a symbol on their foreheads, teach them to their children, and recite them when they stayed at home and when they were away, when they lay down and when they got up. Moses instructed them to inscribe God’s words on the doorposts of their houses and on their gates, so that they and their children might endure in the land that God swore to their fathers as long as there is a heaven over the earth.
Moses promised that if they faithfully kept all the law, loving God, walking in all God’s ways, and holding fast to God, then God would dislodge the nations then in the land, and every spot on which their feet tread would be theirs, and their territory would extend from the wilderness to Lebanon and from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean Sea.
Here are a few of the questions that the Rabbis raised about this Torah reading:
- What is the significance of the word eikev in Deuteronomy 7:12?
- What exactly were these “hornets” that Moses promised would drive out the Canaanites?
- How is haughtiness like idolatry?
- What did Moses mean in Deuteronomy 8:1 by “all the commandments”?
- What “test” did the manna provide?
- Why say the blessing after meals?
- Why did Moses break the stone tablets?
- How fundamental is the fear of Heaven?
- What did Moses mean in Deuteronomy 10:16 when he exhorted the Israelites to “circumcise” their hearts?
- Why does the first paragraph of the Shema (at Deuteronomy 6:5–6) address you in the singular, while the second paragraph of the Shema (at Deuteronomy 11:13, 18) addresses you in the plural?
- Why did the Rabbis choose the paragraphs that they did (including Deuteronomy 11:13–21) for the central Shema prayer?
- How many days was Moses up in the mountain, all told?
- How many arks were there?
- Where did the broken tablets end up?
- Midrash Tanhuma Devorim Eikev 1; Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:1, 2.
- Babylonian Talmud Sotah 36a.
- Babylonian Talmud Sotah 4b.
- Rashi; Chizkuni.
- Rashi; Nachmanides; Abarbanel; Sforno; The Biur; Nehama Leibowitz.
- Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 20b.
- Exodus Rabbah 43:1.
- Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 33b; Sanhedrin 56a.
- Jeremiah 4:4; Babylonian Talmud Sukkah 52a.
- Nehama Leibowitz.
- Mishnah Berakhot 2:2. Land of Israel, circa 200 CE. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 5. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4. Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 13a. Babylonia, 6th century. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Bavli. Elucidated by Gedaliah Zlotowitz; edited by Yisroel Simcha Schorr and Chaim Malinowitz, vol. 1, at 13a3–4. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1997. Elliot N. Dorff. “Sh’ma.” In My People's Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries: The Sh'ma and Its Blessings. Edited by Lawrence A. Hoffman. Vol. 1, at 87–89. Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1-879045-79-6.
- Rashi; Ramban; Shmuel Herzfeld.
- Shmuel Herzfeld.
- Rashi; Ramban; Shmuel Herzfeld.