Home > Divrei Torah > Parashat Eikev 5781

Parashat Eikev 5781

July 29, 2021

Click HERE for an audio recording of this D’var Torah

The Ties That Bind
A D’var Torah for Parashat Eikev
By Rabbi Enid Lader (’10)

In his book Be, Become, Bless: Jewish Spirituality between East and West (Maggid, 2019), Rabbi Dr. Yakov Nagen points out that the internet age is characterized by the unprecedented access to limitless information. However, all this information alone is not sufficient to generate change in our lives; true change comes about through deeply internalizing the knowledge. This requires a shift in consciousness; helping us to do and to be. (p. 286)

Eikev, our Torah portion this week, contains the fourth of as many passages from the Torah that mentions tefillin. These passages, written on parchment and placed in the boxes of the tefillin serve as a reminder of four basic principles in Judaism:

1.     Exodus 13:1-10 – Our obligation to remember the Exodus from Egypt

2.     Exodus 13:11-16 – Our obligation to transmit the tradition to our children

3.     Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – God’s unity and our mutual bond of love

4.     Deuteronomy 11:13-21 – Declaration of a person’s responsibility to God

We are called upon not only to know these principles, but also to internalize them. Rabbi Nagen teaches us that “the mitzvah of tefillin epitomizes the link between knowledge and consciousness… transforming external information into an active awareness…” (Ibid, p.286) as we are called to “set these words on your heart and on your soul and tie them as a sign on your hand and they should be a symbol between your eyes.” (Deut. 11:22)

“Tie them as a sign on your hand and they should be a symbol between your eyes.” Two tefillin boxes, one for the hand and one for the head; each containing four passages, four basic principles that when internalized, have the potential to inform our actions and our consciousness. In remembering the Exodus from Egypt, we come to know how to treat others: the stranger, the widow, the orphan, those who seek safe haven. Fulfilling our obligation to transmit the tradition to our children has to be more than “lip service;” we have to transmit by example, by action. We declare God’s Oneness and are called upon to understand that in response to God’s love for us, having been given the special gifts of Torah and mitzvot, we are to love God “with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all that we have.” (Deut. 6:5) And what is our responsibility to God? We are called upon to love God and to serve God, only God. (Deut. 11:13, 16)

The tefillin are worn; they are an external reminder of these four principles. But, after they are removed, rewound and set in their cases, what is left? We are called upon to take to heart (and mind) the principles they represent; reciting them “when [we] stay at home and when [we] are away, when [we] lie down and when [we] get up.” (Deut. 11:19) Basically, we are called upon to walk the talk.

In the doing and in the internalizing, the tefillin bind us to our history and affect our behavior in relationship to other people. They bind us to the next generation. They bind us in a loving relationship to God. They bind us to the service of God. Indeed, these are the ties that bind.
Rabbi Enid C. Lader received ordination from AJR in 2010, is the rabbi at Beth Israel – The West Temple in Cleveland, Ohio. She is the past-president of ARC (The Association of Rabbis and Cantors – the only joint rabbinical and cantorial professional organization in America), and is the treasurer of the Greater Cleveland Board of Rabbis.