Souls of <I>Ikvata</I>

Under the guidance of our great teacher, Rabbi Kook, we are involved in uplifting the akev; and we do so not by breaking with our past, but "as a result of (eikev) following these laws," (Deuteronomy 7:12) and understanding their quintessential divinity, encompassing even "those [seemingly] unimportant mitzvot which one treads on with his heel (akev)." (Rashi, op.cit

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Rabbi Shlomo Aviner

Judaism לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
There are souls that can be likened to the head [of a body] and there are those that can be likened to a heel [Hebrew: akev, ikvata, eikev]. All these [Jewish] souls together form the collective body of Am Israel, a distinct entity among all souls of the universe. The head and the heel each has its own unique qualities and neither can do without the other. The heel has "its feet on the ground;" it can tread even on the thorniest soil, while "falsehood has nothing to stand on."

Our forefather Ya'akov had this akev quality: " And his hand was holding on to Eisav's heel." (Genesis 25:26) He overcame all obstacles through his connection to the Divine: "For you wrestled with G-d and with men, and you were equal to them." (Genesis 32:29) This was accomplished by grabbing reality "by the heel" (similar, perhaps, to the metaphorical "Achilles heel"). Ya'akov's nature is one of a Torah scholar, "a simple man, a tent-dweller." (Genesis 25:27 and Rashi, ibid.) But he has a firm grasp on reality, and can deal with corruption by attacking its "Achilles heel".

Danger lurks in the heel, not the head, as we learn from the [metaphor of ] the snake through whom Adam was cursed, "And he shall bite your heel." (Genesis 3:15)

Rabbi Akiva was also endowed with akev qualities. His life story is an example of one who learned how to free himself from the snake's curse. A descendant of gentiles who converted to Judaism, he hated Torah scholars in his youth. Through intellectual discipline and effort in the study of Torah, he rose to such a level that he had 24,000 disciples. Just before Moshe Rabeinu's death, the Holy One showed him a vision of Rabbi Akiva teaching Torah and then being martyred al kiddush HaShem. His disciple, Ben Azai, respected Rabbi Akiva more than any of the other rabbis of his time, as he alone was able to deal with the worst corruption and the hardest problems, those of the akev.

This is the ability most needed in Ikvata D'Meshicha, the period preceding the coming of Mashiach, when the most spiritual concepts such as the Kingship of G-d must be embodied in this world through Am Israel. Now, the time has come to translate the prayer [recited in the kedusha of sh'mona esrei] "They shall crown You in Heavens and on the earth" into down-to-earth action, through the establishment of a sovereign Israel.

Simultaneously, the "souls of Ikvata" appear; those souls ensnarled in the problems of akev. One of the signs the Talmud cites of Ikvata d'Meshicha is the prevalence of chutzpah. This chutzpah is an integral part of the process of redemption, a part of the "Achilles heel" of the process.

It is as if a snake is curled around the heels of the Mashiach; despite this, we shall not give up. As Rabbi Kook, of blessed memory, explains, even if the snake, the symbol of the Evil Impulse, of death and of the Satan, is curled around a Jew's heel, he still remains tied to the Soul of the People of Israel. In this period, special Torah leaders, with the leadership qualities appropriate to this special generation, are required.

On his deathbed, Ya'akov attempted to reveal to his sons the secrets of the redemption (see Genesis 49:1 and Rashi, op.cit.), but was not permitted to do so. However, in the Talmud, Rabbi Abba states, "There is no greater sign that the time of redemption has arrived than that the Land of Israel produces fruit in abundance."

Under the guidance of our great teacher, Rabbi Kook, we are involved in uplifting the akev; and we do so not by breaking with our past, but "as a result of (eikev) following these laws," (Deuteronomy 7:12) and understanding their quintessential divinity, encompassing even "those [seemingly] unimportant mitzvot which one treads on with his heel (akev)." (Rashi, op.cit.)

This stems from an understanding of the special position of Am Israel, of "the covenant and the compassion which He swore to your forefathers," of our continuity from Avraham Avinu. When the redemption arrives, heaven and earth will be united, and the divine essence of the heel, too, will be apparent. We shall continue to help this process along, as King David said, "Your servant, too, was careful with them [the mitzvot], in keeping them eikev rav." (Psalms 19:12)

[Translated by Bracha Slae from Tal Chermon. All rights reserved to Ateret Cohanim.]


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