Team Israel Spirit!–D’var Torah: Parashat Ekev, (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:24)–by Nick Clark

When I first began my study of the Parashat, Ekev in Deuteronomy, I had this image pop into my head.

We’re in the team’s locker room, the team getting suited up. Its almost game time. A lot of jostling, humor, towels popping tushes.

Coach Moses walks in and…
Everything stops. The camaraderie is replaced by fear, tension, anxiety and excitement. It is palpable.

Coach Moses has everyone’s attention. Including my own.
While not a quarterback I am a member of Team Israel.

“Team…”. says coach Moses
If you do obey these rules and observe them carefully, the Eternal God will maintain faithfully for you the covenant made on oath with your fathers…

“…God will favor you, bless the issue of your womb, the produce of your soil, your flock…

“…You shall be blessed above all other peoples.

…The eternal will ward off from you sickness…”

Coach Moses goes on with his pep talk reminding us, Team Israel, where we have been, what we have done, what God has done, where we are now, how God will help us, whats gonna happen. And, offers some wary warnings.

None of this is new to us, though. We’ve all heard it before… many, many times.

But now, as I really think about it, what Coach Moses had to say in this Parashat is wickedly deep and wide, not unlike the River Jordan crossing into the Land of Canaan. (For those familiar with the folk music era: Hark! Hear the harmonies of the Brothers Four and Peter Paul and Mary.)

In his declaration (almost like a book! 4 chapters and 109 verses!) I heard the phrase “man does not live by bread alone”.

It was clear that Coach Moses was NOT offering us, his team, snacks.

This assertion, that man cannot live by bread alone, has become a colloquial observation. Whats more, it is true…
We all need more than mana to survive.

Not the least of these needs is for internal, emotional strength and support. We need to feed and nourish our inside selves… tenacity, courage, if we are to make it through the upcoming game.

But there was more. Something I did not hear the first time ‘round. What Coach Moses said was that starvation and defeat is prevented since all that God provides will sustain us.

This portion of his declaration is powerful in and of itself. But all the more so when banked against the fact we cannot live just on loaves of challah.

This led me to a fuller set of thoughts. The question “just what else is going to serve me and my team mates, restrain our growling stomachs, calm our fears including whether or not I will make it?” It led me to a serious pause.

For me, having survived both bacterial meningitis and cancer in the course of the last three years, this is the eyes-wide-open moment, the realization that I am not alone. That more people than I ever knew actually are familiar with me. Many of these people actually know me. And, most important, that I am loved.

This realization – rather, these realizations – give me strength. They have and still give me the courage to proceed in my battle for health and personal fulfillment.

But, for me these realizations are more than the internalizations of facts.
Behind each realization stands a real person… A person whose name and actions I know.

As I wade into the River Jordan, toward the Promised Land, this is the message I take and carry with me from Coach Moses.