Yom Sheini, 18 Av 5779
Monday, 19 August 2019
Parashat Eikev 2012

Eikev by Rabbi Andrew Goldstein
10th August 2012

Another Deuteronomic sedra with blessings and curses, promises of bounty and disaster.· This time the Divine promise that if the mitzvot and the Covenant are kept God will make the settlement of the Promised Land and the inhabitants thereof ·conquered without much effort.· Followed by the instruction to utterly destroy the indigenous peoples and more vitally, their gods and all the trappings that went with them.·· We get a sweet reminder of how wonderful is the land..."flowing with streams and springs....a land if wheat and barley, of vines, of figs, and pomegranates, a land of love trees and honey..." followed by the reminder to bensch - to give thanks "When you have eaten and are satisfied you shall bless the Eternal One your God for the good land given you ." (Deuteronomy 8:7-10)· But this is followed by the warning that when the people have won the battle and are settled and enjoying the bounty of the land and grown rich they will forget God, who allowed them to triumph, and go astray and worship other gods and say" My own power and the might of my own hand have won this wealth for me."

How often have well deserved victories been turned into self-inflicted disasters?

The sedra itself continues with a reminder that what should have been the greatest spiritual experience of all Jewish time· - God's· revelation on Mount Sinai is followed by the Golden Calf. The people quickly forgetting the blessings and deserving to be cursed for their ungratefulness.

And how often have leaders of liberation movements, having achieved their hard won goal, thrown off the oppressors, become dictators themselves?· The Maccabees of Chanukah fame become the despotic Hasmoneran kings in our long-ago history.· But think of all of the modern "freedom fighters", the leaders of revolutions in Africa and now the Middle East.· How quickly the victory of liberation was stolen by the leaders who then imposed new restrictions on the people and stole the wealth of the country for their own benefit.· Think of the drift towards a new totalitarian rule in today's Russia.· Think of Russia almost a century ago: of the Marxist dream, of a new world of freedom and economic equality for all, so quickly debased and so savagely executed.

This Shabbat marks the 60th anniversary of the execution of twenty-six leading Jews in the Soviet Union.· On 12th of August 1952 thirteen Yiddish poets and writers were shot on Stalin's orders., along with an actor, scientist, former deputy foreign minister and a general. Leading Yiddish poets like Peretz Markish, David Bergelson and Itzik Fefer·gave the name to the sad event, "The Night of the Murdered Poets", but there were othesr, so many Jews (and others) of the Soviet Union who were "buried without a name, without a number, without at 'here lies'" as the poet Chaim Baider wrote.

How easily the Promised Land of the Russian Revolution was turned not into a dream but a nightmare, a devastating nightmare; the blessing into a curse.

As individuals we might remember the dread events of the past, remember the poets by looking up their poetry, and pray that such curses never ever come our way.· But this Shabbat we bless the new month of Elul, a reminder that Rosh Hashanah is only a month away.· Time to look at our own lives and ask ourselves how often we have truly thanked God for the good land we do indeed live in, the good times we inhabit, and despite the gloom about the recession, yes, and despite the news of conflict all over the globe, the relative prosperity, security and peace we enjoy.