EIKEV (Deuteronomy, 7:11-11:25) — “Where Were YOU When the Lights Went Out?”

Today’s Hebrew lesson is about the word עקבEikev. Eikev means “since,” or, “because of the fact that . . . “ It is spelled with the same three letters as the word Akeiv, which means, “heel.”  We often find that the Torah uses a particular word or phrase because of its similarity to another word.  This “double entendre” is meant to teach us a double lesson.

This week’s Torah Portion teaches us such a lesson:

It will be BECAUSE OF THE FACT that you listen to these laws, and your observing and performing them, G-d will safeguard for you the Covenant . . .He will love you, He will bless you, He will multiply you . . . (Deuteronomy (7:12-13)

It has been pointed out that the Torah used the word “Eikev — BECAUSE OF THE FACT that you will listen . . .” instead of the word אם IM — IF you will listen . . .” The Talmud says that the Torah is promising us reward for observing “Eikev/Heel Mitzvahs.”

What is a “Heel Mitzvah?”  Midrash Tanchuma observes that King David was afraid that he would be taken to task for “the sins of my heels . . .” (Psalms, 49:6), referring to “minor” infractions that no one pays attention to.  Everyone knows that murder and idolatry are terrible sins against G-d and humanity.  David was more afraid that he had violated one of the “little” sins; the sins that people “trample upon with their heels.”

 People are essentially good.  We do, however, tend to take liberties when it comes to minor infractions.  We wouldn’t dream of reaching into the cash register at the local supermarket and “sampling” its contents.  Yet, many people wouldn’t think twice about nibbling on a grape or two in the produce department.  Most of us don’t drive at 95 miles per hour in a 55 MPH zone.  But how many of us stay under 56???

The Torah tells us that there is no such thing as a “minor infraction.”  If we observe the Commandments that WE consider important, and ignore those that WE consider unimportant, what are we saying to G-d?  We are saying, “Well, G-d, You are entitled to Your opinion as to what You consider to be important.  I will decide for myself which of your Mitzvahs are worth listening to.  I will decide which Mitzvahs to step on!”

The Torah’s message is that G-d rewards us for following the “Heel Mitzvahs.”  There is no Mitzvah worthy of being trampled upon.  There is no Mitzvah that is insignificant.  If G-d finds a particular Mitzvah worthy of our attention, do we dare to ignore His opinion???

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Isn’t it amazing how we take the little things for granted?

I was sitting at my computer this afternoon (Thursday) when the office lights began to flicker.  Within a few minutes, the retirement home where I serve as a chaplain lost all its power.  Many residents didn’t come to dinner because the elevators were out.  We had no water to serve.  (“Let them drink soda!”)

I was very concerned while driving through busy intersections because the traffic lights were out and it was “every man for himself.”  I was pleasantly surprised that the local grocery store had generated power, and that it could still read my credit card!  I had to buy large containers of water for my home because no electricity means that the pump could not deliver water from our well, disabling, among other things, our toilets.

The biggest frustration of all was the sporadic accessibility of cell phone service!  Life is tough!!!  🙂

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We usually take life’s daily amenities for granted.  We “trample on them with our heels,” without giving them a second thought. We don’t stop to appreciate them . . . until we lose them.

As did 9/11, today’s blackout seems to be bringing out the best in people.  Complete strangers are offering each other rides and bottled water.  I keep hearing that Manhattan, notorious for its aggressive drivers, is actually seeing a “kinder, gentler” city of courteous individuals, patiently waiting for the other car to proceed.

As the bumper sticker says, “I must be good; G-d doesn’t make junk!”  Every person is made in G-d’s image.  No one should be viewed as an obstruction, a faceless, nameless obstacle in our way to be stepped over and ignored on our way to do “important” things.

G-d doesn’t ignore His children.  Neither should we.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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From the Archives

“Heels and Smiles” (2009)

… My Rebbe was a man who overlooked nothing.  He knew how to see what others ignored.  He was completely in tune with the world around him.

I remember one evening, toward the conclusion of one of his weekly Torah ethical discussions (“Shmuessen”) he asked us to shut off our tape recorders.  (That always meant we were going to get it!) …

Read more.

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“Dress Rehearsal” (2004)

…What is the statement about Tefillin and Mezuzah doing in the middle of a discussion about whether or not we get to live in the Land?  We already know about those Mitzvahs from last week’s Torah Portion!  Why does the Torah repeat it right after telling us that we may be banished from the Land?

Rashi gives us a fascinating answer to this question…

Read more.

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“Where Were YOU When the Lights Went Out?”  (2003)

… People are essentially good.  We do, however, tend to take liberties when it comes to minor infractions.  We wouldn’t dream of reaching into the cash register at the local supermarket and “sampling” its contents.  Yet, many people wouldn’t think twice about nibbling on a grape or two in the produce department.  Most of us don’t drive at 95 miles per hour in a 55 MPH  zone.  But how many of us stay under 56???…

Read more.

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“Animal Wrongs” (2002)

… Why does the Torah mention animals in the middle of a discussion about humans eating?  It would seem more logical that after mentioning grain, grapes, and olives, the Torah should then say, “you will eat and be satisfied.”  THEN, it should talk about grass for the animals. Why does the Torah interrupt a discussion of people food with a reference to animal food?   …

Read more.

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“Write Between the Eyes!” (2001)

…If the Torah says to write the words of the Shema ON OUR DOORPOSTS, why don’t we?  Why do we settle for attaching a piece of parchment to the doorpost?  Apparently, WE ARE NOT FULFILLING OUR OBLIGATION!!  If we want to be truly Torah-observant Jews, we should take a magic marker and scribble two Hebrew paragraphs on the doorposts of our homes! …

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.net.) Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain inMonsey,New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on August 14, 2003 at 12:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

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