Sefer Shem Mishmuel (by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, as translated by R’ Zvi Belovski, pages 386-387) renders translation of the opening posuk of Parsha Eikev:
“And it shall come to pass, if you listen to these mishpatim (ordinances) and you guard them and do them, that Hashem Ke’ilokecha will guard the convenant for you and the kindness which He swore to your forefathers.”
Bearing this in mind, the Stone Chumash (Parsha Eikev Sefer Devarim Perek 7, posuk 12, pages 980-981) equates Eikev:
“you will hearken [listen]”
in midrashic terms as meaning the “heel”. That is being attentive to the little Mitzvot; the details, the Mitzvot that one tends to overlook, to ignore, to tread one’s heels on in life’s 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, and attentiveness to your fellow Jew as for yourself.
Shem Mishmuel seems to express this Eikev with listening, guarding and doing the mishpatim. In turn, he equates listening with intellect, guarding with life’s emotions — one’s heart and doing with the body and physical performance of the Mitzvot.
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)
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin cites in “Growth Through Torah” (pages 405-406) on our Parsha — Devarim, Perek 8, posuk 17:
“[Lest] you will say in your heart, My power and the strength of My hand did for me all of this success.”
R’ Pliskin says on the posuk:
Don’t allow a feeling of righteousness to cause you to be conceited.
R’ Pliskin equates the above posuk and feelings of conceit with financial success or victory over an enemy in time of war. But could it be that conceit — engrained societal conceit has combined with, or is part and parcel of peer-group pressure — macho machismo regarding tefillot, Chazarot HaShatz, Aleinu, Ba’al Koreas and leyning and more?
But 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 Arnoldis Chapman 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.
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.
The geirush, the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif 6 years ago seems but a paradigm representing the sum total of the comparable smaller evils coming from same place — self-centeredness, conceit, indifference — which were perpetrated Bein Adom L’Chaveiro — Jews against their fellow Jews, and indeed, evils Bein Adom L’Mokom as well. Evils, such as the expulsion of our Jewish brethren from Gush Katif, or expelling male spouses from their homes and towns in Yehuda Shomron and banning them from returning to their families are attrocities perpetrated by by the political rashayim among us exploiting our self-centeredness and indifference to our fellows, as well as our sectorial rivalries, discord and division.
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 — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, 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 stand up to prevent the eviction of Jews from their homes and to prevent the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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 — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — 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.