"Yeshurun got fat and kicked; you grew fat, thick and covered with it (fat)…. You scorned the Rock of your salvation." (Deut.32:15-16)

There are three categories of "getting fat" and two types of "kicking":

"You grew fat": This refers to people when they first become prosperous and allow themselves to indulge in some of the many extraneous sensual pleasures that life offers us.

Instead of perusing some Torah literature on the Shabbat, they prefer to read recreational literature...

"You forsook G‑d": Once they have become "fat," such people begin to subtly change their habits. Instead of perusing some Torah literature on the Shabbat, they prefer to read recreational literature; instead of glancing over at someone else’s newspaper or magazine in the park, they start coming home with a newspaper in hand; instead of attending an Orthodox synagogue, they start attending synagogues that cater to their more discriminating tastes, etc. Eventually, this behavior renders them –

"Thick": This refers to the callousness and insensitivity to authentic Jewish refinement that renders people crude, ceaselessly seeking to satisfy their sensual desires. After living this way for a while –

"You scorned the Rock of your salvation": They begin to disdain authentic Judaism altogether. Even the more "sophisticated" Jewish company they recently began to keep and the more fashionable synagogue they recently began frequenting are now too Jewish for them. Anything smacking of Jewishness has become for them passé, tedious, embarrassing. They become –

"Covered with fat": altogether insensitive to true Jewish values. If they still attend synagogue, it must be one that has entirely shed any trappings of traditionalism; it must be pluralistic, politically correct, morally relativistic – the whole lot. Instead of following true Jewish leaders, they select "leaders" who follow their tastes, who conform to the trends of the times. Their elevated social status blinds them to their own lack of sophistication in Torah, convincing them instead that they are wise enough to offer expert opinions even in matters of Jewish practice that they are not qualified to judge.

Of course, there is nothing wrong in being wealthy per sé...

Of course, there is nothing wrong in being wealthy per sé, as long as we take the necessary steps to ensure that we retain the proper perspective, striving all the more to refine our human-animal natures while not allowing ourselves to indulge in excess mundane gratification, whether material or cultural. We can then progress to refining ourselves and the world by shining the light of the Torah outward, using the blessings of wealth for their intended purposes: to support and further the study of the Torah and the dissemination of Judaism.

Conversely, when we encounter someone who has "gotten fat and kicked," there is no reason or excuse to give up hope; even the most callous Jew remains a Jew at heart, and the truth can breach and penetrate even the hardest, thickest barrier. By explaining to such an individual that the Jewish people are all together aboard one ship sailing in a tumultuous sea, and that if one of us pokes a hole in the ship, we all go down, we can arouse his or her innate concern for their fellow Jews. With G‑d’s help, this will inspire them to return home.

© 2001 Chabad of California/www.LAchumash.org