More than bread: Ekev
“A person does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3). What does this mean?
In the immediate context of our Torah reading, the verse emphasizes that the Israelites have survived due to manna- God’s daily provision- and that they will need more than physical nourishment in the Promised Land. They will also need a relationship with God, a perspective of what really matters in life. Back to bread, Moses will state seven verses later, “When you have eaten your fill, give thanks to the Lord your God for the good land which God has given you.”
Bread signifies our material prosperity, which in abundance creates the danger of self-importance. The rabbis saw gratitude and wisdom as the antidote to arrogance. In the words of 13th to 14th century, Spanish Rabbi Bachya ben Asher, “The people of Israel are compared to a vine to teach us that just as a vine has large and small clusters, the larger ones hanging lower than the smaller ones, the greater [in wisdom] a person, the greater is the humility. King Solomon teaches that pride causes a person to speak dishonestly. It forces a person to deviate from the truth and to make accusations that are unfounded. God weeps over those who are filled with pride.”
May we eat our bread, enjoy our possessions, and know that we cannot buy love. Those aspects of our life that matter most are products of genuine care, informed by gratitude and humility.