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Friday, August 19

The Weekly Shtikle - Eikev

Toward the beginning of the parsha, B'nei Yisroel are reminded (8:4) that their garments did not tatter and their feet did not swell for the duration of their forty-year sojourn. Then, they are told that they should know in their hearts that just as a father chastises his son, so too HaShem chastises B'nei Yisroel. The juxtaposition of these two pesukim is puzzling. Why would the great miracles in the desert be associated with chastising and punishment?
The obvious suggestion is that the latter pasuk is referring to the pesukim before the former. Those pesukim recount how HaShem inflicted suffering and starvation upon B'nei Yisroel, testing them to see if they will keep His mitzvos. Many commentaries understand this to be what is referred to as HaShem's chastising of B'nei Yisroel. However, this leaves two difficulties unaddressed. First, the comparison to the father is troublesome. The chastising and discipline of a father are usually not for the purpose of testing the son. How then can the pasuk compare HaShem's chastising to that of a father? Second, based on our initial question, the interruption of the pasuk dealing with the miracles is unexplained.

Indeed, it is not the norm for a parent to harshly discipline his son as a test. But perhaps that is not the point. HaShem tested B'nei Yisroel in ways that could be mistakenly perceived, on the surface, as nasty and cruel. But the next pasuk immediately reminds us of our miraculous provisions in the desert. Therein lies the comparison to the father. The true sign of a loving father is one who despite his apparent harsh treatment of his son, still happily provides his son with all he needs. When these two contrasting behaviours exist in harmony, it is clear that it is all done out of love. In order to fully understand HaShem's role as the Father, we must contrast the harsh punishments with the constant miracles that were lovingly performed for us.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

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