The power of speech: How words can determine destinies

This is the main goal of Parshat Eikev: Hear what your mouth is talking about.

Phil Chernofsky ,

The power of speech
The power of speech

Personal story: 50 years ago, summer '69, I was a madrich (counselor) at one of the Sochnut's (Jewish Agency) summer programs for high school students.

One of my tasks with the group was to assign different kids to give Divrei Torah (Torah speeches) at the meals.

On Shabbat Nachamu (the Sabbath after the 9th of Av) afternoon, we had just finished Mincha (the afternoon prayer) and were on the way into the dining room for Seuda Sh'lishit (the third Sabbath meal). The boy who was supposed to give the DT came over to me and said he totally forgot. It fell upon me to give the DT.

I had a siddur (prayer book) in my hand and quickly turned to the beginning of Parshat Eikev which we had just read. A pasuk (verse) jumped off the page and smacked me hard on the head. There are several other p'sukim (verses) that convey the same point, but this was the one that did it for me.

"Every commandment that I command you this day you shall keep to do, that you may live and multiply, and come and possess the land that the Lord swore to your forefathers."

The purpose of Torah and mitzvot (the purpose of Jewish Nationhood) is to live a Torah life in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel).

I was and am a product of parents who were extremely Zionist, who encouraged and helped their three sons make aliya (move to Israel). I spent many years as chanich (participant) and madrich (counselor) in Bnei Akiva that re-enforced my feelings and hopes of a life in Israel.

But it was that moment 50 years ago that solidified my resolve to come on aliya. It took me 12 years to actually get here - but that was the most defining moment. That's when I personalized and internalized the desire to fulfill the mitzva (commandment) of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael (settling the Land of Israel) and to do R'TZON HASHEM (G-d's will), which is so clear in several p'sukim in His Torah.

Why am I telling this story? Because it is a story that I've told to my children and (some of) my grandchildren. They need to hear it because they've been here from an early age or were born here. And your children and grandchildren need to hear your story and feelings and thoughts, too.