Not by Bread Alone
In this Parashah Moshe continues encouraging the Nation to trust in God for their conquest of the land and for blessings in every aspect of their lives.
“All the commandments which I command you this day you shall take care to do, that you may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which Yehovah swore to your fathers. You shall remember the entire road on which Yehovah your God led you these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you, and to test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments, or not. He humbled you, and let you hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of Yehovah does man live. Your garment did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell, these forty years. You shall also consider in your heart, that, as a man discipline his son, so Yehovah your God disciplined you. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of Yehovah your God, to walk in His ways, and to fear Him. For Yehovah your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil, and honey. A land where you shall eat bread without poverty, you shall not lack any thing in it... When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless Yehovah your God for the good land which He has given you” Devarim 8:1-10.
In a sense, this passage defines the purpose of man on earth, that is, to have a relationship with God. “Man does not live by bread alone,” writes Moshe. Man was created as a spiritual being, he cannot live only for, or with, the material world. He also needs a spiritual component. God redeemed the Israelis from their Egyptian bondage and He provided for their physical as well for their spiritual nourishment. He fed them the bread from heaven, manna (the bread of angels as noted in Psalm 78:25), He gave them water from the rock, their garment did not deteriorate, nor their foot swelled for forty years. God also provided for their spiritual needs by giving them the Torah — which is likened to bread — for their spiritual nourishment.
What God requires of man, though, is to love Him and to serve Him and to keep His Commandments. Moshe enjoins the people to keep God's commandments no fewer than seven times in this Parashah: "you shall be careful to do" (8:1); "you shall keep" (8:6); "to keep Yehovah's commandments" (10:13); "always keep His commandments" (11:1); "keep every commandment" (11:8); "listen obediently to My commandments" (11:13); "keep all this commandment" (11:22), because, indeed, will come a time when men will move away from God's commandments and passionately declare that God is dead and that man can live by the physical bread alone. It will come a time when God will send a famine in the land — as prophesied in Amos 8:11 — not a famine of bread, but a famine of hearing the words of God. Therefore, man is urged to give as much attention to his spiritual needs as he does for his physical needs. Moshe warns Israel to beware least it allows the forthcoming prosperity and security to blind it to the identity of the source of its blessing.
In the wilderness God supplied all their needs, but as to test their faith, that is, subjecting them to the uncertainty of not having any reserves of food, He gave them double on Friday and none on Shabbat. Thus God was testing their faith, trusting Him that there will be manna awaiting them Sunday morning. Similarly, God took us out of the bondage of sin and He is providing for our physical as well as spiritual needs but once-in-a-while He is testing us. There are some believers who say, should I be tithing (10% would be just right) first to God when I need new clothes for my children, or when I have unpaid bills, or when I need to pay tuition, rent, buy food or take care that I have enough saved up for my future, for my retirement? That is exactly the challenge to our faith. When we give to God - that is, to various ministries dedicated to the work of God - of our excess and are still assured that we can afford all the things we need or desire in life, how is our faith challenged? Do we trust in God that the “manna” will await for us tomorrow? And if so, why do we toil for our physical needs more that for the spiritual ones?
Are the good things that the modern life offers us make us forget that we cannot do anything apart from God? Are the secular voices of the radio, Internet, and TV, proclaiming that God is dead, that we made scientific discoveries in which we do not need God, or that “I did it my way and I have no regrets,” louder that God’s voice who says, “I created you as a spiritual being and you cannot live by bread alone”? Are we spending more time listening to those voices than reading the word of God? We need to check our priorities. We need to hunger and thirst for His righteousness, for the word of God who says: “godliness is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” I Timothy 6:6-8.
The good things of the world are provided for man's enjoyment, thus man shall be moved to praise God and His grateful heart. Giving thanks and praising God after enjoying physical as well as spiritual food should come from an overflowing heart. A reverent and humble recognition of the Author of our sustenance, and gratitude to Him would prevent our obedience to Him to become wearily. Praised and blessed be His name for all that He gives us.
Shabbat joy, peace, and blessings! Shabbat Shalom!
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