This week, in Parasha Eikev, Moses continues his farewell speech to the Israelites, which includes reminders of the people’s actions during their journey in the Midbar (Wilderness) and warnings about how the people are to live when they enter the Land of Israel.
Moses explains the people are to remember the entire road they traveled – the events that occurred during 40 years in the Midbar. God’s purpose was “to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deuteronomy 8:2)
The test Moses then mentions is the manna, the food that descended with the dew every morning and burned off during the course of the day. “He afflicted you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna that you did not know, nor did your fathers know … .” (Deuteronomy 8:3)
How is the manna a test?
Nachmanides (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, 1194-1270, also known as the Ramban) explains the manna was a trial because it was an unusual food. It was new to the Israelites – and the whole world. Their fathers had not known it. It was not like other food. One could only gather enough for his or her family, and any part not eaten that day spoiled. There was nothing else to eat. The manna was not only a gift from God, but also a daily reminder each Israelite was entirely dependent on God.
The Israelites were to learn that in the land flowing with milk and honey, where they would work in farming and raising sheep and cattle, the good soil, abundant rain and sunshine were all provided by God, just as the manna had been. A few sentences later, Moses warns the people not to think their work alone has made them wealthy, but was the work of God who gave them strength, in order to fulfill the covenant God made with the Patriarchs to give their children the land.
The lesson I take from the parasha is to be proud of what we are able to accomplish, and at the same time always remember God is the source of our strength and talents that allow us to do good things. In this way, we pass the same test our ancestors did more than 3,000 years ago.
This is d’var Torah is taken from themes developed by the famous Torah teacher, Dr. Nehama Leibowitz (1905-1997), in her book New Studies in Devarim.