I suppose my wife and I have acknowledged that summer is drawing to a close. Yes, it still very hot in Toronto. Yes the public swimming pools are still open and full. However this past week, we took our annual drive down to the Pocono Mountains to pick our two youngest children from camp. We always make sure to arrive after the campers taking the buses have departed. By the time we arrive, the staff and the staff’s children are all that remain. We say hello to some friends, and gather our children. They have already cried the good byes to their friends. By the time we arrive, they are just very tired but ready to leave. This time was no different. I parked the car, my wife ran out to find the children and say hello. I schlepped the duffle bags and loaded the car. When that was finished, I began walking towards the main office, where our children came to meet Mommy. From the distance, it seemed our son and daughter had grown. They saw me and began running. Our fourteen year old tired ran with her long loping strides. She didn’t look any worse for wear, just tired. Later we found out that she hadn’t slept had been awake for more than 24 hours. Behind the fourteen year old daughter came our twelve year old son. He was running as well. However as he ran, I notice that something kept flapping near his foot which caused him to pay attention to where he place his foot. Some piece of red material was flapping. Now we had purchased a pair of red Nike sneakers prior to camp. When he finally arrived in my arms and we hugged, he took a step back from me and sheepishly smiled. The red material flapping oddly while our son ran towards me was his sneaker. It was torn practically from the sole. It was beyond repair and I asked what had happened. He explained that he tore it while rock climbing. Seven weeks of camp and he had completely destroyed a new pair of sneakers. He also informed me that he threw away several pairs of pants because they no longer fit. Seven weeks of camp and he had grown enough that he had outgrown some of his clothing.
This Shabbat we read from Parshat Eikev. This week’s Parsha is Eikev. Here in his second discourse, Moshe explains to the new generation how the second set of tablets that contain the Aseret Dibrot (Ten Commandments) came into being. He explains how God forgave their parents for their idolatrous behavior in regards to the Eigel Zahav (Golden Calf), Moshe explains that B’nai Yisroel’s essential task is to refrain from Idolatry, serve God, worship God, and the nation will be rewarded with water, grass and quality lives. Moshe also reminds B’nai Yisroel that they have nothing to fear when they enter into Canaan and conquer the land even though they maybe outnumbered. God has already, and will continue to protect his people. He did so during the Yetziat Mitzrayim (Exodus from Egypt). He did so when B’nai Yisroel defeated Og and Bashan. As long as B’nai Yisroel keeps its side of the Brit, God will continue to protect his people.
While Moshe recounts the experience at Mt Sinai, now known as Mt. Horeb, he explains that the misfortunes that befell B’nai Yisroel were L’Nastocha LD’aat et Asher Bilvavecha HaTishmor Mitzvotav Im Lo – tests , to know what is in you r heart whether you would observe His commandments or not (Deut. 8:2). While Moshe explains B’nai Yisroel’s recent history in terms of a Divine Test, he makes an odd statement as he cites some of the miracles that B’nai Yisroel may have overlooked or took for granted. Simlatcha lo Valtah Mei’Alecha, V’Raglecha Lo VaTzeika Zeh Arbaim Shana- Your garments did not wear out upon you and your foot did not swell these forty years (Deut.8:4). Forty years of living in the Wilderness and no one outgrew their clothing nor wore out their clothing or their sandals. Certainly their clothing and sandals were not made with the same high quality material as our son’s sneakers nor his denim jean (that he outgrew). Rashi, the great 11th century French commentator, offers an explanation base on a literal understanding of the verse. Anenei Kavod Hayu SHafin Bichsutam –The Clouds of Glory would rub their clothes U’MGaHaTzim Otam- and press them, Kmin Keilim M’Guhatzim – like freshly pressed garments. V’Af Ketaneihem Kmo Hayu Gdeilim Haya Gadeil Levushan Imahem – and their young too, as they would grow, their clothing grew with them, K’Lvush HaZeh shel Chomet Sh’Gdeil Imo – like the clothing (shell) of a snail which grows with it. This is not the kind of miracle that one notices and has an awe inspiring moment. Rather this is the type of miracle that one becomes aware of after the fact. Maybe this type of miracle is imperceptible on a day to day basis but over the course of years and decades, looking back, one realizes what took place. However a more figurative way to understand Moshe’s statement is that the clothes are God’s teachings, God’s commandments, the Torah. Torah, and Moshe’s teachings, by design, are supposed to grow with the person and never become old, worn out or obsolete.
I suppose Nike and Levis and all the other clothing and shoe manufacturers would hate the idea that clothing is synonymous with Torah. After all, Torah is designed to withstand time and space. Clothing manufacturers need children to outgrow their clothes and wear out their shoes. Otherwise there would be no need to buy more sneakers and jeans. I became very aware of this as I closely inspected by son’s shredded sneaker. As we drove back to Toronto, we passed an outlet mall on the New York State Thruway and bought him another pair of sneaker. I know that his foot hasn’t stopped growing, so we will have to buy more sneakers in another 9-12 months. I told him that I did not want to buy him another pair because he wore them out so quickly but rather because he outgrew them. Maybe he should read and study more since one doesn’t outgrow or wear out his knowledge base like he does with his clothes and his sneakers.