Judaism: Eikev: The Heel of One's Foot
Moshe BurtMoshe Burt is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of the Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
Sefer Shem Mishmuel (by R' Shmuel Bornstein, as translated by R' Zvi Belovski, pages 386-387) renders translation of the opening verse, posuk, of Parshat Eikev:
"And it shall come to pass, if you listen to these mishpatim (ordinances) and you guard them and do them, that Hashem your G-d will guard the convenant for you and the kindness which He swore to your forefathers." (Sefer Devarim Perek 7, posuk 12)
Bearing this in mind, the Stone Chumash (Parshat Eikev pages 980-981) equates Eikev:
"if you will hearken [listen]": in midrashic terms "eikev", "if" is written similar to the Hebrew word "akev" meaning the "heel" and therefore is interpreted as being attentive to the little Mitzvot; the details, the Mitzvot that one tends to overlook, to ignore, to tread on under one's heels on in life's mad dash, but without which the Jewish people would lack the merit which sets us apart from common man.
The little mitzvot, the small details are the ones epitomized by V’Ahavtah L’re’echa Komocha — caring for, and attentiveness to your fellow Jew as for yourself.
Shem Mishmuel seems to express this Eikev as listening, guarding and doing the mishpatim (the laws). In turn, he equates listening with intellect, guarding with life's emotions -- with one's heart, and doing with the bodily and physical performance of the Mitzvot.
Later in the Parsha, there are these psukim:
“For the land to which you come, to possess — is not like the land of Egypt from where you came…” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10.)
“The land which you are crossing to occupy…. is therefore a land constantly under Hashem Keilokecha’s [the Lord's] scrutiny; the eyes of Hashem Keilokecha
are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 11 & 12)
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin cites in "Growth Through Torah" (pages 405-406) on our Parsha -- Devarim, Perek 8, posuk 17:
"[Lest] you will say in your heart, My power and the strength of My hand did for me all of this success."
R' Pliskin says on the above posuk:
Don't allow a feeling of righteousness to cause you to be conceited.
R' Pliskin equates the above posuk and feelings of conceit with financial success or victory over an enemy in time of war. But one could question: could it be that conceit -- engrained societal conceit has combined with, or is part and parcel of peer-group pressure -- macho machismo regarding tefillot which seemingly becomes learned, engrained and systemic from the years of Yeshiva katana and reinforced by macho speed competitions in Yeshiva high schools regarding Chazarot HaShatz (repetition of Shemonah Essrei), Aleinu, reading the Torah for the congregation and more?
This author previously blogged the following:
But isn’t today’s corrupt, evil and pretentious governance but a mirror reflection of us — our self-centeredness, our insensitivity and indifference. Just as our ancestors who “fled from the mountain of G’d like a child running away from school”, don’t WE act the same way?
After a seemingly No-kavanah (no-thought, non-contemplative) break-neck repetition of Shemoneh Esrei, we have the unmitigated gall to blow through Aleinu, the closing prayer, at the speed of a 100plus mph Arnoldis Chapman fastball and then flee out of Shul like a wild herd, like kids running from school lest they be piled with more lessons and homework?
Aleinu L’Shabeiyach: The verbalization of OUR Chiyuv — our obligation as Jews to praise and glorify Hashem’s name. Aleinu is the most often said, the most repetitious and unchangeable tefillah, yet the least respected of all of our tefillot. Noone even bothers to take the time, when vocalizing the tefillah, to even focus on the meanings of it: that Yehoshua davened it forwards, backwards, sideways through as the Jews encircled Yericho and the Shofars blew until Yericho’s walls fell in heaps.
Many, or perhaps most Shaliach Tzibburs have the unmitigated gall and chutzpah to mumble-jumble their Chazarot HaShatz such that most of the words of the tefillot are undistinguishable — they are married to “the system” — speed rules. They seem just want to be finished with tefillot, no matter the break-neck speed.
Not a milli-second of thought is given as to whether or not Hashem desires this type of tefillah. And it is the same “system”, the same level of indifference and insincerity of intent which permiates the 30 - 45 second Aleinu.
The geirush, the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif 6 years ago seems but a paradigm representing the sum total of the comparable smaller evils coming from same place -- self-centeredness, conceit, insensitivity, indifference -- which were perpetrated Bein Adom L’Chaveiro — Jews against their fellow Jews, and indeed, evils Bein Adom L’Mokom (against Hashem) as well. Evils, such as the expulsion of our Jewish brethren from Gush Katif, or expelling male spouses from their homes and towns in Yehuda Shomron and banning them from returning to their families are attrocities perpetrated by the political rashayim (evil-doers) who exploit our self-centeredness, our penchant for divisiveness, sectorial rivalries, discord as well as insensitivity and indifference to our fellows in order to divide and conquer..
And so, it stands repeating; Indeed! Is it any wonder why we get the governance that we have? Is it any wonder why we are all played off against each other divide and conquer? Is our governance not a reflection of who we are? And one could ask: Has our abject failure with the Eikev Mitzvot held back the Geula from us?