What Would the Neighbors Say?: Ekev 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: To what extent do you think powerful people are concerned about their reputations? How many of them are meticulous about appearing completely put-together, and how many have a more devil-may-care approach to their public activities?

Continuing his farewell speech to the Israelites, Moses recalls when he appeals to God’s desire to protect the Divine reputation:

The Pitch: “Else the country from which You freed us will say, ‘It was because the Lord was powerless to bring them into the land that He had promised them, or because He rejected them, that He brought them out to have them die in the wilderness.” – Deuteronomy 9:28

Swing #1: “The whole of the Deuteronomistic history is built on the structure anticipation-confirmation. The fulfillment described is of ‘prescriptive, predictive, or prefigurative statements in the text.’” – Andre LaCocque & Paul Ricoeur, Thinking Biblically: Exegetical & Hermeneutical Studies

Swing #2: “This sentence is a citation of the parallel story in Numbers 14:15-16, but no mention is made there of hatred. Since the two alternatives are mutually contradictory, it is best to construe the [start of] the second alternative not as ‘and’ but as ‘or.’” – Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary

Swing #3: “They reasoned that God may never have had the intention of giving them the land of Canaan, but He lured them into the desert out of His hatred for them, in order to let them perish in the desert.” – Da’at Z’keinim

Late-Inning Questions: Why would God care about God’s reputation among other nations? Shouldn’t God’s reputation among the Israelites be the only one that matters? Perhaps, is God concerned that Israel might never believe if surrounding nations are laughing at God? Can even the most powerful among us endure adversity?

On-Deck at TBT: Registration is open for the new Community Religious School. If you have children or grandchildren going into grades K-7 — or if you know someone who has them — check out this link!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of taking care of one’s reputation, I always found it fascinating how New York Yankee legend Derek Jeter quietly and meticulously crafted his reputation, earning the eternal adoration of Yankee fans, while his teammate Alex Rodriguez — a far superior talent, regardless of how many steroids he took — was constantly lambasted for his public-relations errors even though he cared about his reputation just as much.

Shabbat Shalom!