This week’s Torah portion, Eikev, (Deut. 7:12 – 11:25) continues Moses’ second discourse to the Israelites, warning them of the dangers that might beset them after the conquest of the land, if they turn away from God’s commandments. Towards the end of this portion comes a familiar passage, one that is said both morning and evening in daily prayer – the second paragraph of the Sh’ma (Deut. 11:13-20). This paragraph tells of the rewards that will come to the Israelites and to the land if they follow the laws of Torah, and the punishments that will befall them if they do not.
For a long time, the prayerbooks of the Reform Movement omitted this paragraph. Perhaps the rationalist editors found it too superstitious and childlike to align human adherence to the Law to the behavior of wind, rain and sun. However, in our day, when we are already beginning to experience the effects of climate change on our world, we should take a second look at this passage. So many of the laws of Torah are agricultural in nature, and are about respecting the earth: letting land lie fallow between plantings, allowing fruit trees to develop for three years before eating the fruit. Still others have to do with community, with sharing, and with living together in peace. Perhaps, rather than reward and punishment, these verses may be seen as cause and effect.