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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Grab-Bag of Life Changing Insights from Parashat Ekev

A Grab-Bag of Life Changing Insights from Parashat Ekev
Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD

The following is an analysis of life changing principles found Parashat Ekev. As you read through this, have your Bible handy, and investigate the texts behind the principles that ring your chimes! And then put them into practice!

1. [7:12-15] Even though bad things do happen to good people, by being obedient to Hashem we multiply our chances of good things happening to us.
2. [7:16-20, 25 ff.] Learn to deal radically with that which contaminates. [Cf. Matt . 7:29-30].
a) Curiosity killed the cat, and sometimes won't do you much good either.
b) Sometimes objects are not just things; there is such a thing as spiritual contamination.

3. [7:17-21] - Fearful thoughts are automatic; maintain momentum by counterbalancing them with strengthening thoughts and memories
4. [7:21 ff.] Hashem is a God of process. He has reasons why he does not intervene instantaneously which we might not understand even if told.
5. [8:2-4] Hashem is more interested in our character than in our comfort.
a) It is helpful to think back on the uncomfortable times in your life and to reflect as to what Hashem might want to teach you through them.
b) Beware of a God-concept in which you are the star and Hashem exists to meet your needs. This is one of popular religion’s chief idolatries.
c) People who live this way are bound to be disappointed and will remain immature.
6. [8:2-4] A relationship with Hashem is an ongoing process of deepening trust demonstrated in obedience.
7. [8:2-4] Hashem's absence is more apparent than real.
8. [8:6-10] Learning to say thank you is essential to spiritual health. Gratitude and happiness go hand in hand. Dennis Prager believes that cultivating a sense of gratitude is the key to happiness. Come to think of it, the ungrateful person is never happy, and the grateful person usually is.
9. 8:11-18] Prosperity is more dangerous to spirituality than want is. It is when we are doing well that we are most apt to forget what Hashem has done and what we owe him as a result.
a) [8:17-18] Beware of the tendency to take credit for what God does.

10. [8:19-20] Even God's favored children are held accountable.
11. [9:1-6] Do not confuse Hashem's blessing with his commendation.
12. [9:7-10:11] There are limits to positive thinking: Don't forget to remember and learn from your mistakes.
a) This is contrary to popular expectations that I must never think anything negative about myself. If you forget your mistakes you are apt to repeat them. If you remember them, you are more apt to avoid them. So learn from your mistakes!
b) Learn from your mistakes in order to not repeat them.
c) In order to learn what they cost you.
d) In order to remember with gratitude the measures that had to be taken for you to be spared the consequences you deserved.
e) A good leader and a good parent is a good historian.

13. [9:25-29; 10:10-11] - Remember: we are not fatalists. Where there is God, where there is faith, where there is life, there is hope.
14. [10:1-5] - It is a good idea to keep mementos and artifacts in order to keep important memories alive.
15. [10:8-9] Serving God is a privilege, not a right. Don't ever take it for granted.
16. [10:12 ff., 11:1,22] Maintain your perspective: make sure you don't lose sight of the meaning of the whole through preoccupation with the parts. Especially, remember that the prime directive every day in every way is to grow in consistently "Showing love to the ADONAI your God by walking in his ways and clinging to him" [11:22]
17. [10:19] - Remembering when we were down and out helps us to be compassionate with others in the same situation. Forgetting where we came from makes us callous and unconcerned. Hashem wants us to remember.
18. [11:2-9] We are responsible to learn from our experience with God. Our constant question should be "What did I/should I learn from this?"
a) Hashem does not call us to live only in the present.
b) We must evaluate the past as a key to present actions leading to a brighter future.

19. [11:22] Loving Adonai, walking in his ways, and clinging to him must be seen in the context of taking care to obey the mitzvot.
a) Keeping Hashem's commandments is the main way He has commanded Jews to show their love to Him.
b) But it is possible to keep Hashem's commandments out of mere force of habit, conformity, religious scrupulosity, perfectionism, or pride. This does not please Hashem at all!
c) This is because all of the aspects mentioned in this verse are meant to go together: loving Adonai by walking in His ways, which the Jewish commentator Sforno reminds us means imitating His character, and clinging to Him as if in marital faithfulness to Him. It is in the context of this kind of intense love relationship that keeping the mitzvot has value. And, from a biblical and Jewish point of view, saying you love Him and yet don't want to bother with the commandments makes no sense: "If you love me, keep my commandments."
d) Finally, Rashi helps us by suggesting that "taking care to obey all these mitzvot" requires of us that we continually study Hashem's Torah that it be not forgotten. This can be said of all of God's word. We must study it diligently, for how else can we obey unless we know what is commanded us?
e) There is nothing mightier than a person who obeys God!