Consequences of Not Helping Others

August 4, 2023 / 17 Av 5783

There is a parable of two rural grocers in two nearby villages just off the edges of a large and fruitful forest who chose to address a struggle in two very different ways.

As the villages grew and cut into the forest, some of the more curious animals ventured out with interest to see the opportunities and benefits of what these villagers might provide. It wasn’t long before these grocers’ fruits and vegetables enticed those first few animals daring to steal the tempting goods.

One grocer, angry and vengeful with the animals, began setting traps and finding ways to scare the animals away. The other grocer, however, chose to pick out the rarely purchased damaged fruits and vegetables and set them aside behind his little stand for the venturing four-legged friends.

After a few months, the bitter storekeeper, although having had a few successes snaring a stray animal or two, began to realize a drop in the number of customers and eventually had to close his store because of his humble profits. On the other hand, the storekeeper who embraced the local animals and shared his product found that his customers enjoyed coming to see the animals and shop in his store in one convenient trip. This second store excelled, and as the grocer earned more, he continued to share his success with the animals, and they lived happily ever after.

Such is the lesson from this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, literally translated as “consequence.”

In the last verse from last week’s reading, the people are told that they must “observe the commandments and the laws, and the rules with which they have been charged.” (Deuteronomy 7:11). Subsequently, this week’s Torah reading opens with Moses continuing his closing address to the people, highlighting Gd’s message that there are consequences to our actions and inactions (7:12).

Our ability to understand consequences begins early in our lives. Infants learn quickly that crying gains attention. From crying, children develop more mature communication skills, eventually asking for what they need. From here, these children learn that behaviors have consequences, some good, some not so good, that ultimately develop into behaviors that either support and advance our society or challenge and regress our achievements as adults.

The concept of consequences is not complicated. Moses is not sharing an advanced theory of how to live one’s life. Rather, it is a message that humans possess a universal instinct to know how to behave and do the right thing. We overwhelmingly want to support, encourage, enhance, and advance our society. However, Moses also understands that we are fallible, capable of erring, and sometimes weak in our self-control.

Research has proven that having a coach, mentor, friend, or partner who can help us hold ourselves accountable reaps greater rewards than trying to accomplish something alone. Moses is helping us understand that being part of a community, investing in our relationships, and having others whom we trust to hold us accountable, will remind us that there are good consequences too. That our actions have repercussions and that we need our community to support us through the difficult times because we can often stray during the “easy” times.

As the parable so eloquently shares, we each have the ability to embrace our surroundings with contempt or love, with vengeance or kindness, with our arms crossed or with an outstretched hand. May we all reflect on the kind of community we want to live in and be a part of… and then act accordingly. Because we are…


Shabbat Shalom,