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Parashat Eikev - The Blessing of Satisfaction

Blessing of Satisfaction

Further thoughts on Parashat Eikev

by John J. Parsons

Our Torah portion this week includes the remarkable commandment: "And you shall eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless the LORD your God" (Deut. 8:10), which immediately is followed by a warning to never forget the deliverance and grace of the LORD (Deut. 8:11-17). So what's the connection here?

The Scriptures make clear that the reason we are tested by God is to reveal what is within our hearts (Deut. 8:16). When we are tested by God, it is always for our good, though we might not think so at that time... "Are we always punished for our sins?" asks the student to his rebbe, who succinctly answers, "Only if we are fortunate."  It is a terrible tragedy to be overlooked by God, to no longer be tested, to have an easy go of things in this life... Testing is God's tool for shaping our inner character, a refining fire.  As the Apostle wrote, "Trials reveal the proven character of your faith, which is much more valuable than gold – even gold that is tested by fire, though it is passing away" (1 Pet. 1:7).

It may seem strange that the Torah commands that "you shall eat," since most of us don't need to be reminded to fill our stomachs, but in a deeper sense this means that we are to receive the goodness of life itself. "Taste and see that the LORD is good." That is why in this connection we are further told "and you shall be satisfied." We are to savor what is given and not to rush past the moment, looking for something more. It is only then, after we have received the goodness of the moment and savored it within our hearts that we are to "bless the LORD for the good land he has given you" (incidentally, this explains why Jews recite an additional blessing after they eat a meal called the Birkat hamazon).

טַעֲמוּ וּרְאוּ כִּי־טוֹב יְהוָה
אַשְׁרֵי הַגֶּבֶר יֶחֱסֶה־בּוֹ

ta·a·mu · ur·u · ki · tov · Adonai
ash·rei · ha·ge·ver · ye·che·seh · bo


"Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!"
(Psalm 34:8)


Addictions, cravings, lusts, etc., often arise from refusing to be satisfied, by hungering for more than the blessing of the present moment. "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water" (Jer. 2:13). The living waters are present for us, but we will only find them if we open our hearts to the wonder of God in this moment.  We must slow down, savor the moment, and see God's hand in everything around us: "Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD God of Hosts: The whole earth is filled with His glory" (Isa. 6:3). Opening our spiritual eyes will break the cycle of unthinking habit, of "mindless eating," and so on. Ultimately this is another aspect of shema, or listening to your body, your heart, your soul – and especially listening for God's word spoken to your inward being. We can "break the spell" of continual dissatisfaction, of the power of greed, ambition, and so on, when we discover that our constant hunger is really a cry for God and His blessing. Our sense of inner emptiness is an invitation to come to the waters and drink life...

The world and its promises are entirely vain, since it is possible to "have it all," that is, to have all the world's comforts and toys, and yet still be profoundly unsatisfied...  The blessing of being satisfied means being set free from a sense of lack, deprivation, desire, hunger, and so on. Ambition is restless, greed is a taskmaster, and envy is cruel, but we overcome these inward drives by resting in the promise of the LORD, that is, by "eating His word" and being satisfied with His nourishment.

Being driven by chronic discontent creates a "numbness of being," a state of uncircumcised heart. We rush past the moment and its vividness, its disclosure, its power, is overlooked and unfelt. This in turn causes the heart to feel further deprived, leading to an never-ending cycle of hunger. This explains how people who seem to have everything – all of the world's luxuries and pleasures – can be bored, numb, and dead inside...

We have a Good Shepherd who promises to take care of us, to lead us beside still waters, to give us living water to restore our souls. If we surrender to the simplicity of the moment, trusting that God is present for us there, we find inner peace and satisfaction.

Therefore don't mindlessly eat...  When we eat food we consume one form of life for the sake of sustaining our own, and therefore eating is a sacrificial act.... Yeshua told his followers, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35). Only Yeshua feeds our hearts and gives us everlasting satisfaction. Amen.

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