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Shabbat Parashat Eikev 5774

Parashat Hashavua: What Is Borrowed of You and You?

Harav Moshe Ehrenreich

This week’s parasha contains one of the Torah’s most enigmatic p’sukim: “Now, Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d, ask (shoel) from you, but only to fear Hashem, your G-d, to follow all His ways and to love Him, and to serve Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and all your soul, to follow the commandments of Hashem and His statutes that I am commanding you today, for your good” (Devarim 10:12-13).

The apparent incongruousness of the minimalistic opening to such a long list of demands has drawn much comment. The Midrash (Shocher Tov, Tehillim 36) reports that Hashem questioned David for saying “One thing I ask from Hashem” and then seemingly asking for three things, to which David responded that Hashem seemed to do the same thing in our pasuk. Chazal were, in other words, bothered that the list of broad demands upon us seems to leave little left, so why is it presented as “but only”?

The Noam Elimelech posits that we have translated the word “shoel” incorrectly. It does not mean here to ask or demand but to borrow (see Shemot 22:13). He presents a parable to illustrate the deep meaning. Someone wanted to give a present of oil and honey to his friend, but he did not have appropriate vessels with which to transfer them, so he asked the recipient to lend him vessels in order to facilitate the gift.

The application of the parable is as follows. Hashem wants to bestow upon us the spiritual beauty of a relationship with Him, which is made possible when we serve him in the manner the pasuk describes. Hashem borrows us – the vessels to hold His light – in order to give that light to us as a present. This, as the pasuk concludes, is for our good.

The Netziv explains that the various instructions are each focused on different elements of society. The leaders of the nation – since they are liable to use their power for their own enjoyment, Hashem’s warning is that they must fear Hashem and realize that despite their lofty position, there is One who is high above the high. The Torah scholars – Hashem urges them to love Hashem and to follow His path by emulating His characteristics and acting as role models. The Rambam gives specific instructions as to how a talmid chacham should stand out in his daily life. Those who toil for a living – the Torah urges them to make sure they busy themselves only to the extent that they still have the opportunity to fulfill all of Hashem’s mitzvot. The children and those who join the nation – the Torah says “for your good,” i.e., they should cause the world to be good.

We pray that we will always merit leaders, political and spiritual, who are role models of how to forge a relationship with Hashem and turn each person into a vessel to hold His light.

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