Parashah Ekev [from 31 July 2010]

On the opening words of parashah Ekev [Deuteronomy 7:12 – 11:25], Rashi comments that people pay more attention to the mitzvot and prohibitions that appear to carry greater weight, while neglecting or trampling underfoot those holding a lesser consequence. Determining which commands are greater and which are lesser is often beyond our understanding. For instance, we see honoring our parents as greater than waving a mother bird away from her nest before taking the eggs, but Torah provides the same blessing for both commands; a long and good life. Rashi came to this conclusion because of the use of the word Ekev, which not only means “because” but also “heel,” which Esau uses to describe his brother when he tries to steal back what he despised and rightly sold to Jacob or Yaakov.

The adversary also is well aware of our tendency to place erroneous weights on the commandments, and the Torah forecasts his success. In Genesis 3:15, Hashem speaks and says, “He will strike you in the head, but you will smite him in the heel.” Ramban tells us that Hebrew adopts figurative expressions from the human body to help drive home important points. In light of this, the Kli Yakar offers the following explanation, “Hashem was speaking to the serpent that represented the evil inclination after Adam was enticed to sin. The Almighty predicted that whenever the guileful tempter would try to ensnare us to forsake crucial mitzvot, connoted by the word ‘head,’ [Heb: rosh] the adversary would be struck down and overcome. If, however, he tried to inject his poison into our ‘heel’ [Heb: ekev] and attempted to prevail upon us to tread underfoot less-significant laws, he would triumph.” As Messiah warned us, “he who weakens even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

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