Perashat Ekeb 5777
Perashat Ekeb 5777Friday, August 11, 2017
This week's perasha is Ekeb, which according to Rashi, literally means "heel." Using this terminology then, the first passuk translates as "This shall be on the heel of your hearkening to these ordinances, and you observe and perform them; Hashem, your G-d, will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers".
Why does the Torah use the unusual term "heel" here?
Rashi's interpretation of the passuk explains that we will receive Hashem's blessings if we observe the relatively unimportant missvot that people are prone to "trample with their heels". Why would the Torah pay so much attention to these minor missvot? Wouldn't it make more sense if the Torah told us to concentrate on performing greater, more significant actions rather than those missvot which are seemingly inconsequential?
It's easy for most people to declare their commitment to the so-called "big ideals" such as justice for the underprivileged, achieving world peace or even rights for environmental protection. But, to bring these ideas to practice, Rashi explains, one must first meet the small challenges of our everyday existence. In doing so, one acquires the hashkafah, proper outlook, necessary to overcome greater moral challenges.
Let's speak for a moment about the ambitious pursuit of world peace. How is it possible that although we all strive for world peace, we also all struggle to get along with our neighbors, spouses and even our own siblings? We face these challenges because of our inner devious Yesser Hara, evil inclination, which defeats us by testing our weakest points. Although we proclaim our steadfastness for world peace, we find ourselves getting angry at our family members and speaking Lashon Hara about our neighbors. Consequently, we have made the world a less peaceful place. Through these "small" actions the Yesser Hara succeeds in defeating us.
In Perashat Bereshit, the nahash, the snake who is the embodiment of the evil inclination, employed a similar strategy when he enticed Hava to sin. At first, the snake did not tell Hava to eat from the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge. Instead the Snake deceived Hava by telling her to only touch the tree. It was Hava who ultimately committed the grave sin of eating from the tree. Furthermore, Hashem promised the Snake; "and you will bite his heel" (Bereshit 3:15). Meaning, this will be the modus operandi of the evil inclination to always tempt us through the heel, the seemingly unimportant hurdles.
Our sages tell us that "...for such is the will of the evil inclination: one day he says to a person 'do this', the next day he says to him, 'do that', and ultimately says to him 'go worship idols', and the man goes and worships them". (Talmud Babli, Shabbat 105b)
Working towards and achieving the highest ideals is more readily accomplished through daily perseverance of pursuits which may seem less exciting and often require long term processes that are mundane.
This interpretation sheds light on why all blessings depend on not neglecting the observance of the "lighter" missvot that one tends to trample over, metaphorically speaking, with his heel. Failure and success depend on the small incremental steps we take to better ourselves each day.
May 31 2020
Sivan 8 5780