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Friday, August 26, 2016 • 6:36pm
• Our Portion for the Week •
EKEV – Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25
This portion is a continuation of the second of Moses' three farewell talks to Israel. Moses has warned Israel that when they enter Canaan they must have nothing to do with the idol-worshipping religions of that land. Israel is a people bound to the service of God alone, and if they fulfill God's commandments, they will certainly be a blessed people and the land will bring them great rewards of health, fertility and plenty. Nor should they be afraid of the surrounding nations. They have only to keep their faith in God and to remember that God had redeemed them from the powerful Pharaoh. God would act again in their behalf. Moses asks of Israel always to remember what had happened to them in their years in the wilderness that are about to end. God sometimes punished them as a parent punishes a child, to teach them to keep God's commandments. True, they had difficult times during those forty years, but that, too, was God's doing in order to test and strengthen their faith. And now that they would be settling in a land that would offer plenty of water, crops and fulfill all of their needs, they must not take it for granted, or think that it was their own cleverness that obtained all these good things. Without God they were helpless. Moses urges the people to remember that they were almost doomed on several occasions in the wilderness, by their wrongdoing. Had not Moses pleaded with God for forgiveness, Israel might never have reached the borders of Canaan. It is God who is responsible for their survival and success. What does God require of Israel, then? Nothing that is beyond the reach of any/every person: only to love and serve God and live by the commandments God revealed to them (us!).
• Our Question for the Week •
Cut away, therefore, the thickening about your hearts and stiffen your necks no more. [or … “Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked” – King James Bible]
What is the goal of "circumcising" one's heart? Insight? Open-mindedness? Moral continence and purity? Understanding? Emotional health and intelligence? Access to the holy? Which of these theories may also inform physical circumcision: Brit Milah? Conversely, how does the practice of Brit Milah elucidate the meaning of this odd verse?
How do we go about fulfilling the directives of this biblical text?
Our verse seems to offer a mixed metaphor. How does an uncircumcised heart differ from a (willfully) stiff neck? Which is a more serious "condition"? Why is "stiff-necked" such a common Biblical indictment of the People Israel?