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Self-sacrifice and orange juice

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Every year when reading parashat Eikev I am reminded of this story: Once at a kiosk on a Manhattan street I asked for a small squeezed orange juice. I was given a giant glass full of juice. "I asked for a small," I told the kiosk owner in order to correct his mistake, but he pointed to two larger glasses: "What you got was a small. Here, this is a medium, and this is a large!" A glass in Israel that is called "large" is "small" in the United States, but I am sure that in another few years in Israel, what is "large" today will also be considered "small."

One of the great dangers that the book of Deuteronomy warns about is a society of abundance where we have everything - and it's all large-sized. It's a challenge to live in poverty, but it is also a challenge to live with wealth. It's difficult being hungry, but it's also not simple to be satisfied. And these days, the challenge of finding satisfaction amidst affluence is very real.

Moshe Rabbeinu's warning in this parashat Eikev concerns how the good life of the present can cause us to forget the past and neglect the future:

"Lest you eat and be sated, and build good houses and dwell therein, and your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold increase, and all that you have increases; and your heart grows haughty, and you forget the Lord, your God, Who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage... and you will say to yourself, 'My strength and the might of my hand that has accumulated this wealth for me.'" (Deuteronomy 8:12-14, 17)

Previous generations demonstrated self-sacrifice in pogroms and in the Holocaust. Our self-sacrifice is in continuing to cleave to their values despite comfortable circumstances - with a large glass of orange juice in our hand.


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