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.” (Sefer Devarim Perek 7, posuk 12)
Bearing this in mind, the Stone Chumash (Parshat Eikev 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 oneâ€™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 Vâ€™Ahavtah Lâ€™reâ€™echa Komocha â€” caring for, and attentiveness to your fellow Jew as for yourself.
Shem Mishmuel seems to express this Eikev as listening, guarding and doing the mishpatim (the laws). In turn, he equates listening with intellect, guarding with life’s emotions — with one’s heart, and doing with the bodily and physical performance of the Mitzvot.
Later in the Parsha, there are these posukim:
â€œFor the land to which you come, to possess â€” is not like the land of Egypt from where you cameâ€¦â€ (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 10.)
â€œThe land which you are crossing to occupyâ€¦. is therefore a land constantly under Hashem Keilokechaâ€™s [Our Lord’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.â€ (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posukim 11 & 12)
But 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 above 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 one could question: could it be that conceit — engrained societal conceit has combined with, or is part and parcel of peer-group pressure — macho machismo regarding tefillot which seemingly becomes learned, engrained and systemic from the years of Yeshiva katana and reinforced by macho speed competitions in Yeshiva high schools regarding Chazarot HaShatz (repetition of Shemonah Essrei), Aleinu, Ba’al Koreas and leyning and more?
But isnâ€™t todayâ€™s corrupt, evil and pretentious governance but a mirror reflection of us â€” our self-centeredness, our insensitivity, indifference and time-expediency. Just as our ancestors â€œfled from the mountain of Gâ€™d like a child running away from schoolâ€, donâ€™t WE act the same way?
After a seemingly No-kavanah (no-thought, non-contemplative) break-neck repetition of Shemoneh Esrei, we have the unmitigated gall to blow through Aleinu at the speed of a 100plus mph Arnoldis Chapman fastball and then flee out of Shul like a wild herd, like kids running from school lest they be piled with more lessons and homework?
Peer-group pressure compells many to 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 â€œsystemâ€, the same level of indifference and insincerity of intent which permiates the 30 – 45 second Aleinu — particularly the tendencies to either blow through Aleinu’s second paragraph at break-neck speed, or to blow it off altogether. And so the tefillah of Aleinu, having been blown through for generations in the mad-dash to be through with it, seems the paradigm Eikev Mitzvah. But more than that, is there not a certain arrogance, a certain disregard for one’s fellows: those who for deeper concentration and spiritual reasons, or for pronounciation purposes, i.e. they can’t make their mouths run miles a second, cannot finish Aleinu at break-neck speed? And what messages does break-neck speed send to Hashem?
Aleinu Lâ€™Shabeiyach: The verbalization of OUR Chiyuv â€” our obligation as Jews to praise and glorify Hashemâ€™s name. Aleinu is the most often said, the most repetitious and unchangeable tefillah, yet the least respected of all of our tefillot. Unfortunately, few of us even bother to take the time, with missile-launched vocalization of 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 Yerichoâ€™s walls fell in heaps.
Thinking back a few weeks, this author recalls a Shabbos Drash by Rav Chaim Zev Malinowitz, Shlita, just before Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av. In that Drash, R’ Malinowitz spoke out that we’ve got to feel the void without, and the need for the Beit HaMikdash. He suggested that we say and internalize daily the Parsha of The Tamid Offering. He equated The Tamid Offering with Sh’ma Yisrael. And he equated the second paragraph of Aleinu with the “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” — “May His great Name” of the Kaddish.
The Artscroll siddur (page 56 in Nusach Sefard edition) explains that:
“Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” has an enormous cosmic effect…. Halacha states… respond[ing] to Kaddish takes precedence over… respond[ing] to any other prayer, even Kedusha or Borchu. (Mishne Breurah 56:6)
The Talmud (Shabbos 19) teaches that one must respond “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” with… his total concentration (Rashi, Tosafos)
And so, Rav Malinowitz equated the second paragraph of Aleinu: the “Al Kein N’kaveh L’cha” — which we learn was the prayer of Teshuvah uttered by Achan, who violated Hashem’s ban on taking spoils from Yericho [which were Holy to Hashem and were to go to the Mishkan Treasury (The Living Nach, Early Prophets, pages 17-18)], with the “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” of Kaddish with someone who acquired a property and enters the bank to apply for a loan to start up a business on the property. If the applicant has no formalized written business plan, only the spoken word with no facts and figures to back it up, he’s rejected out-of-hand. But with a formal business plan, architectural plans, etc, his loan request has a chance of being satisfied. Just an additional note here: We learn that three of the first four letters of the paragraph “Al Kein” — Ayin Khaf Nun — spell out Achan’s name.
It took a while for this author to figure out a possible connection between “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” and the paragraph beginning “Al Kein N’kaveh L’cha”, but it would seem that “Y’hei Sh’mei Rabbah…” — “May His Great Name be blessed forever and ever” stands as the mission statement of the “business plan” of B’nei Yisrael, whereas the second paragraph of Aleinu: the “Al Kein N’kaveh L’cha” is the nuts and bolts, the details, the achitectural drawings of making the “business plan” a reality, making it happen. The second paragraph of Aleinu, rather than being an afterthought to be blown off or overlooked, ignored, tread on with oneâ€™s heels, seems the justification behind B’nei Yisrael’s pleas to Hashem to bring us the Geâ€™ula Shlaima and to restore our Beit Hamikdash and the actualization of our Mishkan, our Menorah and our daily offerings.
The geirush, the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif 8 years ago seems but a paradigm representing the sum total of the comparable smaller evils coming from same place — self-centeredness, conceit, insensitivity, indifference — which were perpetrated Bein Adom Lâ€™Chaveiro â€” Jews against their fellow Jews, and indeed, evils Bein Adom Lâ€™Mokom (against Hashem) 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 the political rashayim (evil-doers) who exploit our self-centeredness, our penchant for divisiveness, sectorial rivalries, discord as well as insensitivity and indifference to our fellows in order to divide and conquer..
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 â€” 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 Ge’ula from us?
May we, the Bâ€™nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren â€” the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole â€” be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas Vâ€™Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israelâ€™s and Judaismâ€™s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashemâ€™s blueprint of Bâ€™nai Yisrael as a Unique people â€” an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with â€œthe nationsâ€ and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Geâ€™ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; â€œKi Karov Yom Hashem Vâ€™Kol HaGoyimâ€, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay vâ€™yameinu â€” speedily, in our timeâ€, â€” 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.