<I>Ekev</I>: The Agenda

Such is the power of <I>ekev</i> that David <I>HaMelech</I> said: "Why should I fear in the day of evil, the sin of <I>ekev</I> surround me?" (Psalms 49:6) To ignore <I>ekev</I> is to court disaster, but to uphold it, "Your servant is careful with Your commands, in keeping them is much reward (<I>ekev</i>)." (19:12)

Dr. Aryeh Hirsch,

יום העצמאות 67
יום העצמאות 67
ערוץ 7
This week's parsha features two very similar statements: " V'haya ekev tishmiun...." (Devarim 7:12), which means, "And it shall be if you listen...." that you will receive certain blessings. The second parsha of Shema is found in Devarim 11:13 and reads: "V'haya im shamoa...." - "And if you listen to My commands...." then I will give rain in your land, etc. These seem to be two identical paragraphs. Would it not have been enough to write just one of these two sections?

The first section, ekev, comes just after the section of the Ten Commandments. The Oznayim LaTorah notes that the repeat of the Aseret HaDibrot in last week's parsha, VaEtchanan, has different words from those in Exodus. These words stress that the Jews are now entering the land of Israel. Thus, for example, the tenth command mentions "your fields," ( Devarim 5:18) which the Israelites were about to receive in the Holy Land. The word "fields" is not present in the Exodus text.

The following parsha, Ekev, features the word ekev, because , as the Ba'al HaTurim notes, there are ekev, or 172 , words (until rei'echa in 5:18) in the VaEtchanan (not the Exodus) text of the Ten Commandments; also, ekev implies a cause and effect mechanism not implied by the "if" of the Shema section of Devarim 11:13. This cause and effect mechanism is activated by the new, communal, tzibur nature of the Ten Commandments.

The Oznayim LaTorah gives an example: the Shema (11:13) section stresses "worship" of God, which Rashi says means prayer and learning (so as not to forget the commandments). Both of these activities, and other mitzvot mentioned in parshat Ekev (grace after meals, etc.) can be done by an individual or by the tzibur. The Shema section emphasizes performance by the tzibur, but the ekev factor multiplies the mitzvah and its reward. For example, if one man learns Torah, then he has done the mitzvah of Talmud Torah. But if ten men learn (or pray) together, then each caused the other to show up and learn, and so each has credit for one Talmud-Torah mitzvah and nine ekev mitzvot.

Such is the power of ekev that David HaMelech said: "Why should I fear in the day of evil, the sin of ekev surround me?" (Psalms 49:6) To ignore ekev is to court disaster, but to uphold it, "Your servant is careful with Your commands, in keeping them is much reward (ekev)." (19:12)

Rabbi Matis Weinberg notes another connotation of ekev. Our sages note that ekev hints at the "lesser, lighter" commandments that we easily ignore (ekev hints at the "mitzvot that we easily tread on with the heel of the foot." - Rashi 7:12 ). The reward for ekev comes because "ekev mitzvot" are the ones we "happen upon," as noted in the story of Rabbi Yosi in Gemara, Avoda Zara 18a. These are good deeds done neither because of any personal agenda, nor because we feel a natural affinity for certain mitzvot (some Jews are turned on by hunting snails for tzitzit blue thread; others stay up late into the night pondering deep problems of Halacha, etc.) These ekev mitzvot just happen, like finding the nest of birds with the mother bird sitting on eggs (Devarim 22:6), or coming across a poor man in need of help, and you do it only because of God's command. No self-interest, only "unrelenting and tenacious guard against trampling the smallest flowers of the covenant."

All this takes on greater importance as we enter the last 45 days of the year, the movement in time from Tu B'Av and summer to the Yom HaDin of Rosh Hashana, as hinted in "always, the eyes of your Lord Almighty are on the Land of Israel, from the beginning of the year until its end." (Devarim 11:12). Especially this year, when the Land is in the turmoil of war, and Jews are being killed, and the northern third of this country is shut down. How downtrodden are we that we suffer under a government of self-interest, whose agenda (Convergence and a Palestinian state) does not allow it to destroy our enemies? Instead, we send out our men to fight in inadequate numbers, a strategy that only leads to more, unnecessarily dead Jews. Those responsible for these decisions will ultimately face their Yom HaDin, Day of Judgement, and Israel will see the ekev rewards, including:

"And your Lord Almighty will subdue them [the enemies of the Jewish People] before you, confounding them greatly until they are subdued. And He will give their leaders into your hands, and you will blot out their names from under the heavens. No enemy will stand up against you, until you destroy them all." (Devarim 7:23-24 )