The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Av 23, 5767/August 8, 2007


"If only you listen to these laws, safeguarding and keeping them, then G-d your Lord will keep the covenant and love with which He made an oath to your fathers."
(Deuteronomy 7:12)

What's in a word? A great deal. So it would seem from Deuteronomy 7:12, the opening verse of this past week's Torah reading. The Hebrew word Eikev which is translated above simply as "only" and in other translations as "verily" or "wherefore," has much meaning to impart to us. The word Eikev is spelled the same, and originates from the same root as, and is pronounced only slightly differently from Akev - the heel of a person's foot. In other words, we can read our verse like this: "If heel you listen to these laws, safeguarding and keeping them, then G-d your Lord will keep the covenant and love with which He made an oath to your fathers." Rashi, the brilliant 11th century Torah scholar explains this curious turn of phrase thusly: "If the seemingly light or inconsequential commandments that we may take for granted, or trample underfoot, beneath our heels, if we regard these with the same importance as we do those commandments which strike us as possessing great importance and requiring great effort, if we '... only listen to these laws, safeguarding and keeping them, [as we do commandments of of seemingly greater significance] then G-d your Lord will keep the covenant and love with which He made an oath to your fathers.'"

By employing the imagery of our heels as a metaphor for a casual approach to mitzvot - and to life itself, Torah is teaching us that we need to be, above all else, diligent in our efforts to relate to all Torah commandments, indeed, to all people, family, friends, associates, even strangers, with equal care and concern for their well being. By granting others the significance they deserve, we are at the same time setting limitations to our own sense of self importance.

This same lesson is revisited later in our Torah reading, in the following passage:

"For HaShem your G-d is bringing you into a good land... And you will eat and be satisfied, and bless HaShem your G-d for the good land which He has given you. Beware lest you forget HaShem your G-d, in not keeping His commandments, and His ordinances, and His statutes, which I command thee this day; lest when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built fine houses, and dwell within them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; then your heart be lifted up, and you forget HaShem your G-d, who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; who led you through the great and dreadful wilderness, where there were serpents, fiery serpents, and scorpions, and thirsty ground where was no water; who brought you forth water out of the rock of flint; who fed you in the wilderness you manna, which your fathers knew not, He sent hardships to test you, but it was so He would eventually do good for you. and you say in your heart: 'My power and the might of my hand has brought me all this prosperity'." (ibid 8:7-17)

When we misjudge and inflate our own self importance we find we have little respect left for G-d, and little room for others. In fact, we are told: "And now, Israel, what does G-d 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 G-d your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul." (ibid 10:12) When we fear G-d, we are fearless of those who stand against us. When we stand in awe of G-d, we become aware that each of His commandments is of equal importance, and that every human being possesses a spark of the Divine and is worthy of our love and respect. We must not disregard G-d's commandments, even the most diminutive of them. We do need to be diligent to fulfill G-d's word, and to be humble before others, treading on none.

Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK, and join Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven as they discuss this past week's Torah reading, Eikev, fearing G-d and performing to the best of our abilities all of His mitzvot, even those whose import we might not grasp, not the least of which is the building of the Holy Temple.

Click to hear:

Part 1
Part 2