It says in this week’s Parsha, Eikev (Devarim 7:12), And it will be Eikev (=as a result of) that you listen to all of these laws, and you guard them, and you do them and HaShem, your G-d, will uphold the bris and the chessed (concerning) which He swore to your forefathers. Rashi quoting our sages, ob”m, points out that the word eikev, which means “as a result of” is used parenthetically in the verse. The word eikev (עקב in Hebrew) means “heel” as well. As we find by Ya’akov, our forefather, that he was called יעקב, (note the same letters as עקב above) as the Torah tells us in Bereishis (25:26) Ya’akov was given this name because he was holding on to Eisav’s heel when he came out of his mother’s womb. Why, asks Rashi, did the Torah use the word “heel” here? Of what significance is it?
Says Rashi it teaches us a great deal! It’s not that we have to focus on the “big picture” stuff in our Jewish lives that will bring us to greatness – it’s specifically the things that we “crush with our heel” that will bring about greatness. As a result of us keeping the laws and mitzvos which we consider to be relatively unimportant, those that we “crush with our heel,” that we will be deserving of all of the blessings of HKB”H. How true that is about life as well!
This has two ramifications:
First of all a man is not built from the grandios things that he does in his life, it’s actually the little things, the things that we do repeatedly, which make us who we are. The RaMBa”M, (Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon), writes in his explanation of the Mishna (Avos 3:13) this yesod, (fundamental principal).
“אחר כך אמר, שהמעלות לא יושגו לפי שעור גודל המעשה, אלא לפי רוב מספר המעשה. וזה, שהמעלות אמנם יושגו בכפול מעשי הטוב פעמים רבות, ובזה יושג הקנין, לא בשיעשה האדם מעשה אחד גדול ממעשי הטוב, שבזה לבדו לא יושג קנין. משל זה, שהאדם אם יתן למי שראוי אלף דינר, בפעם אחת ולאיש אחד, לא תושג לו מעלת הנדיבות בזה המעשה האחד הגדול, כמו שתושג למי שיתנדב אלף פעמים באלף דינר, ויתן כל דינר מהם על צד הנדיבות, לפי שזה ייכפל על ידו מעשה הנדיבות אלף פעמים, ויושג קנין חזק, וזה פעם אחת בלבד התעוררה הנפש התעוררות גדולה למעשה טוב, ואחר כן פסקה מזה.
וכן בתורה אין שכר מי שפדה אסיר במאה דינר, או נתן צדקה לעני במאה דינר שהיו די מחסורו, כמו מי שפדה עשרה אסירים, או השלים חסרון עשרה עניים, ואפילו בעשרה דינרים. ולזה תקיש. וזה הוא ענין אומרו: לפי רוב המעשה אבל לא על פי המעשה”.
“Moral acquisitions cannot be acquired according to the measure of the greatness of the action, but rather according to the frequency and number of actions.”
This is one of the most essential tools in all education, repetition. In all aspects of life the more you do something – the better you are at it! Do you want to become a better swimmer? Do more swimming! A better jogger? Do more jogging! Do you want to be a holier person? The more you act with holiness, the more holy you become!
But it’s not just about the details. It’s also about our attitude towards them.
Can I overcome my feeling of doing something of little importance, (things that we crush with the heel), to get up and perform because this is what my Lord and Maker desires from me, or do I just focus on the really important stuff because I know better… than G-d?
That’s really what avodas HaShem is all about! Doing what HaShem thinks is right as opposed to what I think is right. Focusing on daily and constant devotion, especially in those areas those that I feel are relatively unimportant.
Take for example our daily devotion called “prayer”. Our sages, ob”m, say (Tractate Berachos 6b) that There are things which stand at the height of the world and people make light of them. Upon which Rashi comments “for example: Prayer”.
Prayer is a daily devotion, however it can be an activity or an uplifting experience, it all depends on how we address it. If I get up in the morning looking forward to my day and then, all of a sudden, I remember that I “have to daven first”, then in all likelihood – it’s just one more “activity” that I am required to do. The extent of it’s influence will, therefore, be very slim if not a truly negative experience.
But if I wake up in the morning and what I really look forward to doing is davening, then it most certainly will be a positive experience. If I address my davening experience as mumbling a few words in a language that I don’t understand it will be negative. If I spend time understanding what the meaning and the purpose of what I am saying is – it’s positive.
What is it that will help me make the difference? Understanding my relationship with my Master and Creator! Why DO I need to daven? Am I doing Him a favor by offering up some “praise”, or is it’s real value for my own sake? I am the true recipient of the benefits of davening!
This is true in all aspects of life.
If I do the actions (repeatedly), especially those actions which are looked upon as “not so serious” and I do so with the understanding that I’m not doing it as a favor to HKB”H but rather as a favor to myself – that’s when I begin to understand and be worthy of the promises and the blessing of HaShem. It is for this reason that the Torah say “And it will be EIKEV TISHME’UN”, as a result of our UNDERSTANDING the eikev that all of the promises and blessings will be fulfilled. The real purpose of the promises and blessings is to aid the oved HaShem by making his life easier and more available to achieve even more.
Don’t use crush life with your heel, use it as a springboard instead!