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לימוד תורה

"My own power and the might of my own hand"

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald

The Parasha in the everyday life – Parashat Ekev - 5780

A comparison between the situation that existed in the world before the corona crisis and the situation now indicates some dramatic changes. One of them is related to the consciousness of human domination in the world. Until before the crisis, humanity strongly ruled the world. Technology and science have reached great and powerful achievements. Progress has given humanity the tools to control systems and turn the world into a small global village. At first glance it seemed as if man was the sole and only ruler in the world. As the consciousness of man's power increased, the recognition of the Divine influence in the world and its being a decisive factor in the success of mankind decreased. Less mentioning the name of G-d in relation to success, to the point of ignoring. To some extent the greater the human success the greater the disregard. In a sense, ignoring G-d's presence and influence on the world and human success is more serious than atheistic or agnostic heresy. For the 'heresy' conducts, in a hidden way, a kind of dialogue with the existence of G-d, even if in the negative way. The disregard erases the issue from the agenda, completely.

The microscopic, invisible corona virus has taken humanity back to proportions. It disabled entire systems that humanity was proud of. Humanity found itself defensive and helpless in front of it. The crisis has forced humanity to recognize that man is not really omnipotent. That he depends on small things that are greater than him and beyond his control and needs the grace of Heaven.

In Moshe's words to the people of Israel before entering the Land of Israel there is an expectation of the success of the people of Israel and at the same time a warning; in a blessed success there are also risks:

...פֶּן־תֹּאכַ֖ל וְשָׂבָ֑עְתָּ וּבָתִּ֥ים טוֹבִ֛ים תִּבְנֶ֖ה וְיָשָֽׁבְתָּ׃ וּבְקָֽרְךָ֤ וְצֹֽאנְךָ֙ יִרְבְּיֻ֔ן וְכֶ֥סֶף וְזָהָ֖ב יִרְבֶּה־לָּ֑ךְ וְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־לְךָ֖ יִרְבֶּֽה׃ וְרָ֖ם לְבָבֶ֑ךָ וְשָֽׁכַחְתָּ֙ אֶת ה' אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ ...

"When you have eaten your fill, and have built fine houses to live in, and your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold have increased, and everything you own has prospered, beware lest your heart grow haughty and you forget Hashem your G-d…"  (Devarim 8:12-14)

The Scripture describes great economic success and well-being: satiety and well-being - an abundance of crops, multiplicity of assets and spacious infrastructure - וּבָתִּ֥ים טוֹבִ֛ים תִּבְנֶ֖ה build fine houses to live in. However: "Buildings and movables reflect productive activity, and they may lead to arrogance. For a person's spirit is comfortable with himself when he sees his handiwork" (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch ibid).

He also notes the abundance of herds and flocks and increase in silver and gold - economic prosperity –

וכל אשר לך ירבה. עניני תענוגי בני האדם.

"and everything you own has prospered: 'All of these are matters of human pleasures" (Haamek Davar ibid)- A life of comfort and quality of life. All of these can lead to arrogance and pride.

וְרָ֖ם לְבָבֶ֑ךָ lest your heart grow haughty:  Attribute success to yourself; to your talent, your resourcefulness and efforts, and to 'forget' G-d: "Indeed pride does not lead to forgetting G-d, but is itself the beginning of forgetting G-d" (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch ibid).

'Forgetting' is like disregarding

וְאָמַרְתָּ֖ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ כֹּחִי֙ וְעֹ֣צֶם יָדִ֔י עָ֥שָׂה לִ֖י אֶת־הַחַ֥יִל הַזֶּֽה׃ וְזָֽכַרְתָּ֙ אֶת־ה' אֱלֹקיךָ כִּ֣י ה֗וּא הַנֹּתֵ֥ן לְךָ֛ כֹּ֖חַ לַעֲשׂ֣וֹת חָ֑יִל

"and you say to yourselves, “My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me.” Remember that it is Hashem your G-d who gives you the power to get wealth(Devarim 8:17-18)

Disregarding the Divine help for success, who gives you the power to get wealth.

"While man is observing that natural life and all its causes, are all arranged by G-d for the sublime purpose of human perfection, he will recognize the Creator when the natural things are sufficient for him, which requires a great deal of effort on his part in wisdom and knowledge and physical and mental strength. That is, man needs to do things to promote the natural world. And he understands and feels that G-d is helping him in this, while doing the things he can.

And here is Hashem's hand with him on every detail of his movements, this will allow the person to understand the Divine leadership more correctly and completely than if G-d performed a miracle in an unnatural way and thus he will achieve what he wants to achieve.

Because this is a person who does things himself and G-d helps him. And in such a situation the person does understand that it takes a lot of effort to get what he wants. And how much help is required for even a simple and easy action of man to achieve the goal.

Therefore, he said, "Remember that it is Hashem your G-d who gives you the power to get wealth” (Ein Ayah Berachot 10:2).

Mankind is required to act to perfect and develop the world. It must recognize the tremendous ability it has to advance and change. However, it should recognize its limitations and know that success does not depend only on human actions. There are elements in success that do not depend on humanity only. Therefore, along with its precise and multiple doing, humanity raises its eyes humbly to Heaven, in prayer to G-d for success.

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