This week’s Parsha, Eikev, contains the famous Pasuk 8:17 regarding כוחי ועוצם ידי. The common interpretation of this verse decries attributing one’s various successes to his physical prowess, and denying Hashem’s managing of events. While this message is certainly true, the context of the Pasuk indicates that it is not precise and straightforward rendering of the Torah’s intent.
The preceding Pesukim describe how Hashem provided the Jewish Nation during their sojourn in the desert with Mann to eat and a miraculous spring that erupted from a stone and followed them throughout their journeys. It would stretch the limits of credibility to insist that anyone would take personal credit for physically providing these supernatural occurrences.
Rather, the Torah is warning against an even more subtle and insidious perspective. We are discussing individuals who saw with their own eyes the impressive and incontrovertibly miraculous events that took place during the Exodus from Egypt and the ensuing years. They certainly had no doubt that Hashem runs the world, as they witnessed this micromanagement on a daily basis. There was no risk that they would doubt His absolute control of circumstances.
So, what was the issue?
It seems to me that the concern was in glorifying our personal spiritual level and what it entitles us to receive.
They knew these occurrences were miracles, and they had no doubt they were performed solely by Hashem, but why?
The concern addressed by the Torah is that people can come to believe that they deserve these miracles and that they have it coming to them. An individual can be led to think that he is so righteous that Hashem owes it to him to save and support him, and this is the intent of כוחי ועוצם ידי. The risk was not reliance on one’s physical abilities; the concern was that we would fail to appreciate that Hashem grants us these wonderful things purely out of His own good-will, and all of the Torah and Mitzvos we can possible accomplish would not entitle us to even a miniscule fraction of the good things in our lives.
This principle actually expresses itself explicitly later in our Parsha. In 9:5-6 the Pasuk enjoins the Jewish People to refrain from attributing their future successes in conquering Eretz Yisroel to their righteousness and to understand that it is due to the merit of the Avos.
May we succeed in appreciating that we owe so much to Hashem for our mere existence that nothing we could possible accomplish would cause Him to owe us anything. It is solely due to Hashem’s love for us and generosity that we receive our Parnasa and Nachas, and they are a tool to enable us to grow further, but not something we deserve. This awareness will prevent complacency, and constantly drive us to grow further.