Parashat Eikev / פרשת עקב

Eikev, Deuteronomy 7:12 -11:25

The Big IF

“If only [i.e. because] you shall hearken to these laws, safeguarding and keeping them, then Hashem your G-d will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers.” (Devarim 7:12)

If only you shall hearken to these laws – The Hebrew word is “Eikev” which can mean “if only” or “because.” Understood as such, the Torah is saying that because we are careful to obey G-d’s commandments, we will merit that He will carefully safeguard the covenant He forged with our ancestors.  However, the word “Eikev” can also be translated as “heel.” Its use in this verse alludes to the idea that G-d desires that we observe not only the “big” mitzvot that are well-known and popular, such as eating only kosher, observing Shabbat, and donning Tefillin.  He equally desires that we fastidiously observe every facet of the Law, even those mitzvot that people traditionally trample on with their heel. – Rashi

“Rebbi said…‘be as careful to observe a minor mitzvah as you are to observe a major mitzvah, for you do not know the reward of each mitzvah’” – Mishnah, Avos 2:1

Although some mitzvot get all the attention, don’t take that to mean that they’re necessarily more important than others.  In G-d’s eyes, all mitzvot are integral to the development of our relationship with Him, and all deserve our attention and dedication.  Of course, when starting out, one cannot possibly observe all of them at once, but our goal must always be to steadily grow and add to the number of mitzvot that we practice.

Moshe continues his discourse guaranteeing the Jewish people prosperity and good health if they follow the mitzvot, the commandments. He reminds us to look at our history and to know that we can and should trust in God. However, we should be careful so that we are not distracted by our material success, lest we forget and ignore God.

Moshe warns us against idolatry (the definition of idolatry is the belief that anything other than God has power) and against self-righteousness — “Do not say because of my virtue that God brought me to possess this land … but because of the wickedness of these nations that God is driving them out before you.” (Deut. 9:5). He then details our rebellions against God during the 40 years in the desert and the giving of the Second Tablets (Moshe broke the first Tablets containing the Ten Commandments during the sin of the Golden Calf.)

This week’s portion dispels a common misconception. People think that “Man does not live by bread alone” means that a person needs additional foods beyond bread to survive. The quotation in its entirety is, “Man does not live by bread alone … but by all that comes out of God’s mouth” (Deut. 8:3).

The Torah then answers a question which every human being has asked of himself: What does God want of you? “Only that you remain in awe of God your Lord, so that you will follow all His paths and love Him, serving God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul. You must keep God’s commandments and decrees … so that all good will be yours” (Deut. 10:12).