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D'varim/Deuteronomy 8:11 Guard yourselves lest you forget Adonai your G-d
This is the first of a pair of opposite but matching admonitions in the second aliyah of this portion. The first use a negative verb, forget: beware, let you forget; the second (in v.18) is its positive counterpart: you shall remember. The first is preceded by a description of the natural goodness of the Land that would greet the people as they entered it - they did nothing to create it and might become intoxicated with its plenty and fertility so as to forget G-d who had made and prepared it for them. The second, on the other hand, pictures a more settled situation when the people have been in the Land for a while and have worked to harvest the fields, dig the riches from the ground and see wealth generated by their labours - then they must take positive steps to remember that it was G-d who brought them through the wilderness to be in the Land at all.
TheRamban comments: "... remember G-d who brought you forth from Egypt where you had no power or might of hand at all. You should further remember that He provided all your needs for you in the wilderness, where you had nought in the power of your hand to survive. If so considering this wealth that you have won by your strength as well, it is G-d who gave you the power to accumulate the wealth; and if you forget G-d He will consume your flesh and your body (Proverbs 5:11) and you will perish, just as those before you perished, for all that forsake the Eternal shall be consumed (Isaiah 1:28)."
The visible miracles - the water from the rock, the manna from heaven, the quail and the everlasting shoes and clothes - were a pointer to the invisible miracles that were to surround the people in the Land: the springs, rain from the skies, bread from the earth, olive trees and honey, that were just as much provision from heaven and a gift of G-d's grace, even if man does have to be involved in the process. The settlement of the Land and the tilling of the soil were another form of trial to confront the people in the new environment of plenty: would they remember to walk in the ways of G-d?
Around us today we know material provision and comfort on a far wider scale and without expending the physical and mental toil that our people did when they entered the Land. We have electricity, running water and air-conditioning in our houses - even in our cars - and eat food throughout the year, flown from wherever it is in season around the world. Solomon said, "Rejoice, young men, during your childhood, and let your heart be pleasant during the days of your young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that G-d will bring you to judgement for all these things" (Kohelet 11:9, NASB). In all our blessings and plenty, we must remember who provided them and walk in the ways of G-d.
Further Study: Acts 17:26-31; Colossians 1:16-17
Application: Have you, like many of us, become accustomed to enjoying G-d's provisions and material blessings, forgetting from where they come - perhaps because, these days, they are always there? Then today would be a good time to take stock and start thanking G-d on a daily basis for all that He does and provides for us.
© Jonathan Allen, 2005
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