Greetings from the Jersey shore where my family and I spend a week every summer visiting family. There is nothing like being near the ocean, walking on the soft sand and relaxing to the sound of the waves. With this in mind, I recently came across a travel brochure from the ancient near east about our future homeland, the land of Canaan. It describes a land with “streams of water… underground streams… wheat, barley, grapes, figs, and pomegranate... a land whose stones are iron and from whose mountains you will mine copper.” These enticing words come from this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, and are very different than words coming out of the modern State of Israel that highlight the beaches of Tel Aviv, floating on the Dead Sea, and sailboats floating on the Sea of Galilee. Our ancestors were a lot less interested in luxury resorts and much more in practical matters such as how they would feed their families. In fact, a map of ancient Israel would not include the coast line at all, which was controlled by the Phoenicians.
I wonder how they would look at us today, in a time when their desire for clean water, a stable food supply, and access to minerals for trading have largely become societal assumptions. What stands out to me are the three Hebrew words from this week’s Torah portion that have become the foundation for our blessing after the meal, “V’Acaltah, V’Savatah, U’verachta,” “you will eat, you will be satisfied, and you will bless.” This is the ultimate desire of our summer travels, to get away from the familiar, in order to better feel God’s blessing in our everyday life. Indeed, while the circumstances of humanity have changed a great deal over the millennia, our desire to eat, to be satisfied, and bless God remain constant.