Moshe teaches the people of Israel that obedience to Hashem will bring them tranquility, security and prosperity in their Land. He explores this theme from many perspectives in Parashas Ekev:
He will love you, and bless you, and make you numerous; and He will bless the fruit of your belly and the fruit of your Land; your grain, and your wine, and your oil; the calves of your herd and the lambs of your flocks; upon the land that He swore to your forefathers to give to you (Devarim 7:13).
And you shall eat and be satisfied (V’ACHALTA V’SAVA’TA), and you will bless Hashem, your G-d, for the good Land He has given you (8:10). “I will grant rain for your land in its proper time, the early rains and the late rains, that you shall gather your grain, and your wine, and your oil. And I will grant grass in your field (ESEV B’SADCHA) for your animals, and you will eat and be satisfied (V’ACHALTA V’SAVA’TA)” (11:14-15).
Then Hashem will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will possess nations that are greater and mightier than you. Every place upon which the sole of your foot shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and the Lebanon, from the river, the Euphrates River, as far as the Western Sea shall be your boundary. No man will stand up against you: the fear of you and the dread of you shall Hashem, your G-d, place on the face of the whole land where you will tread, as He said to you (11:23-25).
The commentaries, however, have some difficulties rendering verse 11:15 above (which is included in the second paragraph of the Shema) and raise several questions:
And I will grant grass in your field (ESEV B’SADCHA) for your animals, and you will eat and be satisfied (V’ACHALTA V’SAVA’TA). ESEV B’SADCHA – A field is usually designated for planting grain, so what kind of blessing is it if grass grows there instead?!
V’ACHALTA V’SAVA’TA – Has this blessing not been said earlier (8:10)? What will you eat? Surely not the grass in your field!
What is the connection between the two parts of this verse? In other words, in what way does and you will eat and be satisfied follow And I will grant grass in your field for your animals? Is it a causal relationship, or merely sequential?
In addressing question #1, Saadiah Gaon (882-942) translates B’SADCHA, not in its usual sense of in your field, but as “in your wilds and outdoors areas.” In opposition, Rashi (in his first explanation, adapted from Sifri) says that grass will grow in the fields for the animals, but the blessing will be “that you will not need to take them out to the wilds” (perhaps Rashi means that you will have some fields for grazing and others for grain). In his second explanation, Rashi says that you will trim off some produce throughout the winter months and feed it to your animals, stopping thirty days before the harvest, yet you will still have plenty of grain. As for question #2, Rashi answers that our verse is a different blessing from the quantitative one stated in 8:10. Here, a qualitative blessing will be found in the bread while it is in your stomach — you will feel satisfied disproportionate to the amount. Ibn Ezra, to answer question #3, would translate our verses as follows:
“… and you shall gather your grain and your wine and your oil (and I will grant grass in your field for your animals) which [grain and wine] you will eat and be satisfied.”
Ramban, on the other hand, suggests two interpretations, also based on Sifri: (1)When the animals will eat well they will work the fields efficiently, with the result that you will eat and be satisfied. (2) His main reading would translate:
“… and you shall gather your grain and your wine and your oil, and I will grant grass in your field for your animals, which [grain, wine and animals] you will eat and be satisfied.” Ramban thus addresses question #4 as well. The Talmud (Berachot 40a; Gittin 62a) sees another connection between the two parts of the verse.
“It is forbidden for one to eat [Gittin: to taste anything] before giving food to his animals, as it says, [First] And I will grant grass in your field for your animals, and then you will eat and be satisfied.”
However, since Rivka gave water to Avraham’s servant before she gave the camels (Bereishit 24:17-20), we see that this law applies only to food, and not to drink (Magen Avraham [R. Avraham Abele ben Chayim HaLevi Gombiner, c. 1637-1683] on Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 167:6 in the name of Sefer Chasidim).
One implication of this law is in the realm of berachot. Generally, one may not interrupt between a beracha and the deed by speaking, unless the speech is relevant to the deed. Thus if, after reciting the beracha for bread, one says “Bring salt,” “Bring the food,” “Serve food to so-and-so,” or “Feed my animals,” he does not need to repeat the blessing (Rambam, Laws of Berachot 1:8; Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit.).
On another level, this law trains one to be sensitive to the needs of dependent living things. Rambam, Laws of Slaves (9:8) teaches that although one has the right to work a gentile slave without restriction, “it is the trait of piety and the ways of wisdom for a person to be compassionate and pursue justice.” Thus, the early Sages “fed the animals and the slaves before partaking of their own meal” (cf. Sefer Mitzvot Gadol, R. Moshe ben Yaakov of Coucy, 13th Century). The children of Avraham, influenced by the Torah’s laws and values, “are compassionate to all.” Hence, the ultimate benefit of following Hashem: Recognizing the oneness of Creation under the One Creator is the only certain basis for universal ethics.