The sidra ends with a proviso – and a promise. The proviso is, “If you safeguard the words of this covenant and keep them”; the promise, “you will be successful (taskilu) in all you do” (Deut. 29:8). This seems to be saying that the person who observes God’s word will have material success.
But is this really the meaning of the Hebrew word taskilu? Surely the root is connected with sechel – discernment, intelligence. Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, however, prefers the more conventional view. He says, “Whoever occupies himself with the Torah, his possessions will bring him prosperity” (AZ 19b).
Rabbi Baruch Epstein suggests in his Torah T’mimah that instead of n’chasav, “his possessions”, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi may have meant d’rachav, his ways, in line with a verse from Joshua, “This book of the Torah shall not depart from your mouth… for then you will make your ways prosperous and you will have success” (Joshua 1:8).
But the prosperity does not have to be material. Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi), who says that success depends on faithfulness to the Torah, probably means that someone who lives by the business ethics of the Torah – telling the truth, not undermining or deceiving a customer, not exploiting a worker, having correct weights and measures – will feel a sense of well-being, and that will be his success.
Nonetheless, taskilu may still be directly connected with sechel and the text may be read as saying, “If you observe the Divine word, your deeds will be intelligent”.
Without Torah, you may find yourself directionless. There may be no purpose in your life. You may not be sure where you are going. You may exert yourself without worthwhile result. But use Torah as the blueprint of your life and you will be, in the rabbinic words, shuttaf l’haKadosh Baruch Hu b’ma’aseh b’reshit – a partner with God in building the world.