At a kiosk on a street in New York City, I once asked for a small glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. After I was handed a giant glass of juice I said, “I asked for a small.”
But then the kiosk proprietor pointed to two glasses that were even larger. “You got the small,” he said. “Here’s the medium and here’s the large!”
What we call “large” in Israel is “small” in America.
The true challenge of our lives, as described in Sefer Devarim, is living with prosperity – in a society where everything is abundantly available. Time after time Moshe Rabbeinu warns us not about poverty but about wealth, not about starvation but about satiation.
After years of wandering in the desert, Sefer Devarim prepares us for the challenge of our own era. The challenge does not concern shortages, but rather surpluses.
Our forefathers in Egypt – and our grandparents or great-grandparents in our own time – were challenged by slavery, degradation, famine, persecution, and exile, but what is to be done now that we have entered the good land, a land flowing with milk and honey?
It’s not by accident that the Torah warns us again and again: Remember, don’t forget, be careful not to overindulge and get fat lest you forget the traditions that you kept despite everything and sanctified with your tears and blood.
True, all the generations before us demonstrated self-sacrifice, devotion, and passionate commitment, and we praise them for having done so in the worst possible circumstances. But we cannot take our own complex challenge of prosperity lightly and we too must demonstrate self-sacrifice in keeping those same traditions, despite our comfortable circumstances.