Parshas Eikev: For Not by Bread Alone…

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Eikev, Moshe Rabbeinu continues his masterful and powerful soliloquy to the people.  He reminds us of the good Land to where we are going, he reminds and exhorts us to keep the mitzvos, he reminds us to serve and love G-d, Whose eyes are always upon the Holy Land, from the beginning to the end of the year.

וַיְעַנְּךָ, וַיַּרְעִבֶךָ, וַיַּאֲכִלְךָ אֶת-הַמָּן אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יָדַעְתָּ, וְלֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶיךָ:  לְמַעַן הוֹדִיעֲךָ, כִּי לֹא עַל-הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם–כִּי עַל-כָּל-מוֹצָא פִי-ה’, יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם – And He afflicted you, and He let you go hungry, and He fed you the manna which you did not know and which your fathers did not know, in order to teach you that not on bread alone does man live, but on all that comes from the mouth of Hashem, does man live (Devarim 8:3).

R’ S.R. Hirsch writes (ibid), “There, in the 40 years in the wilderness, in the absence of all the factors that normally enable man to win his bread through a combination of natural resources and human energy, He brought out in sharp relief that one factor which under normal circumstances is only too easily ignored.  Instead of nourishing us with the bread that bears the stamp of human achievement, He fed us with the manna allotted by G-d alone, and He had it come to us day and day, to every soul in our humble dwellings, in a manner that clearly demonstrated G-d’s personal care of every soul, both great and small.  Hence, in this course of preparatory training for our future life, we learned the following basic truth: Human existence does not depend on bread alone – i.e., on the natural and human resources represented by bread.  Rather, man can live by anything that G-d ordains.  Even the bread that he obtains by his own skill is ordained by G-d.  Therefore, man is not lost, if for the sake of his allegiance to G-d, he is compelled to forgo all that can be obtained from human and natural resources; indeed, man must know that even in the midst of plenty derived from the resources of man and nature, he still owes his sustenance solely to G-d’s special care.”

All too often we become caught up in the race to work more and more, earn more and more, invest more and more, save or spend more and more.  While it is the reality of life that this is the way the world runs, at the very beginning of our national journey, for forty years of wilderness wanderings, Hashem wanted us to know the truth of our existence.  And that is that though we toil by the sweat of our brow from morn to night, day in and day out, our work is not, and never was, the source of our sustenance, of our earnings and of our success. 

כִּי לֹא עַל-הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ-יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם-כִּי עַל-כָּל-מוֹצָא פִי-ה

While we may tend to think in our hearts that כֹּחִי וְעֹצֶם יָדִי, עָשָׂה לִי אֶת-הַחַיִל הַזֶּה, the strength and might of my hands made me this great wealth (Devarim 8:17), our national beginnings and sustenance teaches us – and should remind us always – otherwise.

While man may till and sow, plant and reap, rise early and retire late… It is not by the work of his hand alone that he lives; it is rather, by the will of G-d that we are sustained.

Tzivia Jesmer relates the following story:

When my son, Yaakov, became engaged to Leah (Machlis), the four parents met to discuss who would pay for what.  We agreed that we would pay for half the wedding.

A couple of weeks in, I realized the wedding hall the Machlis’ were looking for was huge, and our half of the cost would be way beyond our budget.  I called Henny (Machlis a’h) and told her that our concept of a ‘normal’ size wedding was different than theirs, and I didn’t know what to do, because I didn’t want to cause any trouble.  I asked, “Why do we need such a big hall?”

Henny replied, “We really need to invite a lot of people.”  I know the Machlis’ do this amazing hachnasas orchim, but I didn’t realize that they extend the concept to every aspect of their lives.  So I said, “Well, the last couple’s wedding that we made had a total of 300-400 people, and that’s what I was expecting.  What are you expecting?”

Henny said, “We have to be prepared for the possibility that there will be closer to 1,000.”  I wasn’t sure what to do, and asked Henny if she was okay if I would ask a Rav.  She was completely agreeable, and said they would do whatever the Rav says. 

The Rav said that whatever is the normal amount that we would invite, that’s what we are obligated to pay for.  I called Henny back and told her.  She said, “I’m 100% okay with that.”  I told her we would pay for the 200 guests that we would invite.  She said, “That will help so much.”

A week and a half before the wedding, Henny called me.  “I was thinking about the wedding, and we are going to invite a lot of people.  And after the wedding, through the grapevine, everyone you know will hear that your son got married and that there were 1,000 people at the wedding.  And I don’t want you to be walking down the street and see someone you know and feel bad that they weren’t invited to the wedding when they know there were 1,000 people there.  So I just want you to know that Mordechai (R’ Machlis) and I feel very strongly that anybody and everybody that you would want to invite, you should invite, and don’t worry about the numbers or the money.  You pay for 200, and we will pay for the rest.”

I was dumbfounded.  “Are you sure you want to take that on?” I asked Henny.  And she replied, “Hashem is big.  He can pay for whatever” (Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, p.369-370).

In the hectic-ness of our daily lives, we would do well to remember the lesson of the manna and our national beginnings: Hashem can, Hashem does, and Hashem will, “pay for whatever.”

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.