Sunday, August 16, 2020

Parashat Ekev: Mindfulness


Thoughts on Parashat Ekev 2020

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It is told that on one Friday night, the Hafess Hayim (R. Yisrael Meir Kagan) reflected upon a well-known midrash regarding the taste of the man which fell in the desert. The Rabbis taught that the taste of the man was dependent upon each person’s individual thoughts or wishes.[1] “What would happen if you weren’t thinking anything?” the rabbi wondered aloud. After a few minutes of silence, he answered the question himself: “If you don’t think, there is no taste.”[2]


An important pasuk at the beginning of Parashat Ekev teaches that mindfulness was in fact the essential purpose of the man:


And He afflicted you and made you hunger and fed you the man…in order to make you know that not on bread alone does the human live, but on every utterance of God’s mouth does the human live. (Devarim 8:3)


Moshe explained that the man was more than just a source of nourishment. By setting the people of Am Yisrael in a context of hunger and discomfort, God forced them to recognize Him as the true source of their life. They were compelled to think about the appearance of each next meal. And the heavenly descent of the man made them mindful of its divine origin.


For the past several months I’ve commiserated with family and friends about the many annoyances of coronavirus. We’ve all complained about how the changes to social life, dining venues and travel habits have caused major distractions to our lives. Consider for a minute, though, that we’ve had it wrong all along. Maybe it was actually the life we knew before this pandemic which was more distracting! Think about it. Isn’t the current pace of our slowed-down days more conducive to focus than those of the past? And where better to notice what truly matters than in the natural confines of our homes, together with family?

Shifting our perspective, then, let’s appreciate this difficult time as a rare challenge of mindful “affliction.” It’s our modern-day reality of man.


Many of the superficialities which once dominated life are absent for the foreseeable future. The distractions which filled our hours and days have all but disappeared. So, seize this opportunity to become mindful. Use the time to focus on matters of essence. Clear your spiritual lenses to think deeply about yourself. Consider your connection to God. Reevaluate your values and reassess your mission in life.


Remembering that “If you don’t think, there is no taste,” commit yourself to discovering the true flavors of life.

[1] See Commentary of Rashi to Bemidbar 1:8, s.v. leshad.

[2] Cited by R. Shimon Schwab, Maayan Bet HaShoevah (Brooklyn, NY, 1994), pg. 175, and translated in Jonathan Feiner, Mindfulness: A Jewish Approach (New York, NY, 2020), pg. 114.