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    Our ancestors’ merits – Ekev

    zechut avotThe Torah promises that if we listen to God’s will, He will carry out the covenant He made with our ancestors (Deut. 7:12).

    But the sages say in the Midrash to Psalm 146, “If a person does not do good deeds, they cannot rely on the deeds of their ancestors”.

    This accords with the second of the Ten Commandments, which tells us that if we do the right thing, God’s approval will reverberate for a thousand generations.

    Everything depends on our own deeds. If we do the wrong thing, we cannot expect God to turn away and take no notice. If we sin, we cannot expect the good deeds of our ancestors to save us.

    So what is the point of the long established concept of z’chut avot, “the merits of the ancestors”?

    Our ancestors are there to help us, to guide us along the right path, to support us when we feel too weak to make the big decisions in favour of keeping the Divine commandments.

    The lesson is reinforced by the opening paragraph of the Amidah, where we praise the Almighty as “our God and the God of our fathers”.

    If we decide that He will be our God, this makes us at one with our ancestors; and because He is the God of our ancestors, the thought of their piety leads us to make Him our God.

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