The beginning of Parsha Eikev is equated in terms of one’s being attentive to the little Mitzvot; the details, the Mitzvot that one tends to overlook, to ignore, to tread one’s heels on in the mad dash, but without which the Jewish people would lack the merit which sets us apart from common man. The little mitzvot, the small details are the ones epitomized by V’Ahavtah L’re’echa Komocha — caring for your fellow Jew as for yourself.
Later in the Parsha, there are these posukim:
“For the land to which you come, to possess — is not like the land of Egypt from where you came…” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10.)
“The land which you are crossing to occupy…. is therefore a land constantly under Hashem Keilokecha’s scrutiny; the eyes of Hashem Keilokecha are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 11 & 12)
A parable is cited by Rabbi Mordechai Katz in L’lmod U’lamed on Parsha Eikev (page 167) to explain these posukim, and indeed the concept of Eikev mitzvot;
A son once asked his Father for counsel on seating arrangements for banquet celebrating the Bris Milah of his new-born son.
The son felt embarrassed for the poor people who were always seated at the end of the table and he wished to honor them by seating them at the head of the table while placing the wealthy at the far end.
The father praised the nobility of his son’s intentions but told him that were he to carry out his plan, none of his guests would be very happy.
The father related to his son how the wealthy have plentiful supplies of food in their homes and are coming to the banquet not seeking nourishment, but seeking honor. It is best to seat them at the head of the table so that they receive the honor that they seek. The poor who seek nourishment should sit at the foot of the table where they can eat undisturbed and away from the limelight.
This same differentiation can be made between Israel — Am Yehudi and the other nations.
The nations, the heathens of the world are like the poor at the banquet, they seek only to satisfy their bodily needs and they can accomplish this in any part of the world, but not in our Eretz Yisrael HaKadosh.
But the Jewish nation does not [normally] place it’s emphasis on materialistic satisfaction and has always sought the higher, more spiritual aspects of life.
“They are to be recognized and honored by the rest of the world. Therefore, they have been placed in Eretz Yisrael where the eyes of the world are fixed upon them. (Tehillim 104) In this way, their good deeds can be observed by all. At the same time, however they must be careful not to desecrate Hashem’s laws. If they unfortunately do so, they will be degrading the Torah in full view of all other nations, thereby causing the unspeakable tragedy of ‘Chillul Hashem.'”
Reflecting back over five years, and indeed the previous year and a half leading up to the Expulsion as well, one can only view what occurred as a Chillul Hashem of the highest magnitude. There were at least a dozen junctures where this Gezeira Rah could have been reversed politically. But Israel’s politicians then and now, even and particularly the so-called religious ones, by and large lack any vestige of Jewish moral principle, conviction or integrity. They simply seek material wealth, aggrandisement and power at any and all cost. Any position which jeopardizes their political position or power-base is duly disqualified. And the few, the numbered few — possibly 1-3 out of 120, who possess a modicom of Jewish moral principle, conviction or integrity lack the backbone, competency and capability to lead.
Remembering back, these observations mirror the feelings of those days; that the B’nai Yisrael, that the Jewish people, that the religious community were for the most part complacent on Yom Pakuda, the day when the expulsion was put into force. Many, most went about their lives unfazed, as they shopped, went to work and ran here and there — business as usual — as though nothing had happened even as the loudspeakers blared on every street as to what was about to happen on that Yom Rishon.
Yom Pakuda was not prevented and was a huge Chillul Hashem which the masses acquiesed to and did nothing to prevent. And so now, a heretofore totally self-sufficient segment of the Jewish Nation stands mostly destitute, demoralized to this very day five years hence, with no end in sight, thanks to the hand of successive evil regimes as well as a self-centered, indifferent Am who largely lacked the backbone, courage and strength of conviction need to stand against this evil decree. And these slimey politicians of a morally corrupt governance now stand poised to replicate, on a scale of far greater numbers and magnitude, their feat of expelling Jews from Gush Katif.
By this, do we merit Eretz Yisrael and most favored nation status from Hashem?
But the geirush, the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif by the rashayim among us seems but a paradigm representing the sum total of the comparable smaller evils perpetrated Bein Adom L’Chaveiro — Jews against their fellow Jews, and indeed, evils Bein Adom L’Mokom as well.
2 months ago, this author blogged the following:
Isn’t today’s corrupt, evil and pretentious governance but a mirror reflection of us — our self-centeredness, our insensitivity and indifference? Just as our ancestors who “fled from the mountain of G’d like a child running away from school”, don’t WE act the same way? After a typical no-kavanah (no-thought, no-contemplative) 6 minute Shemoneh Esrei, we have the unmitigated gall to blow through Aleinu at the speed of a 100plus mph… fastball and then similarly flee out of Shul like kids running from school lest they be piled with more lessons and homework?
Aleinu L’Shabeiyach: The verbalization of OUR Chiyuv — our obligation as Jews to praise and glorify Hashem’s name. Aleinu is the most often said, the most repetitious and unchangeable, yet the least respected of all of our tefillot. Noone even bothers to take the time, when vocalizing the tefillah, to even focus on the meanings of it: that Yehoshua davened it forwards, backwards, sideways through as the Jews encircled Yericho and the Shofars blew until Yericho’s walls fell in heaps.
But, yet we have the unmitigated gall to blow through Aleinu and then flee out of Shul like kids running from school lest they be piled with more lessons and homework?
Many or most Shaliach Tzibburs have the unmitigated gall and chutzpah to mumble-jumble their Chazarot HaShatz such that most of the words of the tefillot are undistinguishable — they are married to “the system” — speed rules. They just want to be finished with tefillot, no matter the break-neck speed. Not a mili-second of thought is given as to whether or not Hashem desires this type of tefillah. And it is the same “system”, the same level of indifference and insincerity of intent which permiates the 30 – 45 second Aleinu.
But, it gets worse. The Chillul Hashem, the evils Bein Adom L’Mokom seem to have become even more blatant reaching to the attitude of the Ba’al Korei in leyning from a Sefer Torah. Numerous times recently, the tendency has been experienced where some Ba’al Koreis act in a gruff, disrespectful fashion toward a Sefer Torah, thus denying the zehut, the priviledge to individuals called for Aliyahs of performing the long-standing tradition of touching their Tzitzit to the final word of the Aliyah and kissing their Tzitzit. This gruffness is reflected by the Ba’al Korei pushing one side of the Torah’s Eitz Hachayim toward the othe side with a force which strikes the hand attempting to ever-so-lightly touch the word with the Tzitzit. Not only does this gruffness have the potential to sting one’s fingers, but it poses a real danger to the Sefer Torah itself.
Sofrim have told this author that one of the chief causes of premature chipping away and degradation of a Sefer Torah comes from where people have rubbed too hard on the letters when touching a word with their Tzitzit. It seems evident, therefore, that the gruff actions of an insensitive, unfeeling Ba’al Korei can cause greivous harm to a Sefer Torah by putting an individual called for an Aliyah in the unfortunate position of unintentionally having caused damage to a Sefer.
A gruff Ba’al Korei can therefore be a direct cause of a Chillul Hashem and potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars in repair costs to the Kehillah — that’s if the Sefer so handled is even repairable as a result.
And so, it stands repeating; Indeed! Is it any wonder why we get the governance that we have? Is it any wonder why we are all played off against each other — divide and conquer? Is our governance not a reflection of who we are? And one could ask: Has our abject failure with the Eikev Mitzvot held back the Geula from us?
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.