Parshat Eikev is a fundamental parsha [Torah portion], as it sets out the basis for what binds our people together. The foundations of our practice begin with the Shema, “Hear O Israel, the Eternal is our G-d, the Eternal is One”. The full Shema is more than those six words. The opening declaration is followed by a response proclaiming the glory of G-d’s dominion and continues with three paragraphs underscoring our binding relationship to G-d through what we say, do, and feel.
We begin by promising to love G-d with all our intellectual, emotional, and physical abilities and by promising to demonstrate our commitment to this love as a daily practice. The second paragraph outlines a system of material rewards and punishments that depend on our loyalty to G-d and the proscribed mitzvot. This paragraph claims that if we follow G-d’s commandments, we will be rewarded with rain so that the land will be productive, and that our flocks and fields will be fruitful, and we will dwell in security. If we fail to follow the proscribed mitzvot, we will lose all our blessings.
The logic of faith is not a “yes or no” form of logic; it is a logic of balance in which we must hold a series of mutually exclusive beliefs in harmony. In spiritual discourse, different doctrines are introduced to teach different life lessons. Our charge is not to resolve these contradictions, but to ask why a sacred text chooses to emphasize one value over another in any specific instance.
I look at this aspect of the parsha as a reminder of the consequences of choices. I also believe that a fundamental aspect of our religion is that through our practice of adhering to G-d’s mitzvot, we are on the path to opening our hearts. When we live with our hearts open, we are bringing about the healing of the world. We have choices and we must be constantly aware of the results of our actions – a system of ‘rewards’ and ‘punishments.’
I relate this to my practice of meditation by looking at the rewards and punishments metaphorically rather than as they are outlined in this parsha – when I adhere to a practice of constantly seeking to open my heart, to avoid judgments and to discover the beauty that is around me, I receive many personal benefits. When I fail to keep on this path, I invite suffering and pain to myself and those I encounter.
I offer this kavanah, or intention: to stay with our breaths in order to connect us to all living things – a gift – and to contemplate how we may stay conscious of this connection when we are engaged with the world we inhabit.