Parshat Eikev 5776: Connecting the Eikev Mitzvot and “This Mitzvah” and the Centrality of Shabbos

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Eikev is being sponsored by R’ Joel and Shelly Padowitz of Ramat Beit Shemesh in thanks to Hashem for all the kindness He has bestowed upon us. To the Padowitz family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses and good wishes.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3


Parshat Eikev 5776: Connecting the Eikev Mitzvot and “This Mitzvah” and the Centrality of Shabbos

by Moshe Burt

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.

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 (social ordinances) and you guard them and do them, that Hashem Ke’ilokecha will guard the covenant 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 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 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.

With that said, in a previous vort on Parshat Eikev, this author equates the Eikev mitzvot with concentration and intent during tefillot, including Aleinu: the most oft-repeated, unchangeable prayer of all — the prayer which some scholars have understood may be the culmination of all tefillot which preceded it.

Eikev could also be understood as equated with the degree of kavod (respect) that we show in the Beit Knesset/Beit Medrash for siddurim, chumashim, other s’forim and the facility itself.

Shem Mishmuel, in another vort on our Parshat Eikev, cites a posuk near the end of our Parsha as well as a Devarim Rabbah and comments (Shem Mishmuel, pages 390-391):

“For if you will surely keep all of this Mitzvah which I command you to do it, to love the Lord, your G’d, to go in His ways and to cleave to him.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 11, posuk 22)

The Midrash notes a difficulty with the text…, and comments:

“For if you will surely keep all of this Mitzvah”what is “all of this Mitzvah”? Said Rabbi Levi, “This is the recital of Shema.” The Rabbis say, “This is Shabbos, which is equal to all of the Mitzvot in Torah.” (Devarim Rabbah, Perek 4, posuk 4)

The primary function of reciting Shema is to accept upon oneself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven…. Rabbi Levi, who claimed that the Mitzvah is reciting the Shema, believed that the most fundamental aim of… Torah… was for man to connect himself to Hashem.

Shabbos is described by Chazal as “fixed and established.” (Pesachim 117b) This means that man has no control as to when Shabbos occurs. It is, and always will be, every seven days, and has been so since creation. Yom Tov, in comparison, is contingent on the beis din…. Shabbos is fixed by Hashem alone, irrespective of man. The holiness of Shabbos descends from Heaven on a weekly basis. Our job is to prepare ourselves to accept it. We must focus our week’s activities toward Shabbos and as the day approaches ready ourselves for its arrival.

The Rabbis, who claimed that Shabbos is the Mitzvah believed… that the most basic purpose [of Torah] is to receive the Divine gift of spirituality. Thus Rabbi Levi finds the quintessential Mitzvah to be one which brings man to Hashem, whereas the Rabbis find it to be the one which brings Hashem to man.

The focus of the Rabbis on Shabbos observance, as The central Mitzvah seems, then, to correspond with this author’s previous expressions of Shabbos as: Judaism 101, either the embarkation point bringing one closer to Hashem, or the point of disembarkation where one moves further away.

So, one could understand our Parsha as expressing the importance Torah places on diligently performing the smallest of Mitzvot, even as we would perform THE Mitzvah.

We see from Torah that the context of “if you will surely keep all of this Mitzvah” is Am Yisrael inhabiting and possessing Eretz Yisrael and prospering in it.

All of this, once again, seems to point up the centrality of Sh’miras Shabbos, the guarding of Shabbos observance, in Jewish religious life. And it points out the peril in a Jewish State of a political attitude of benignity regarding Shabbos observance visa vi “alternative” forms of public transportation on Shabbos (via oxymoronic “private” companies), even in the name of so-called “cultural unity”, and the multiple cans of worms such an attitude opens, to our continued possession, habitation and prosperity in OUR Eretz Yisrael, as well as to our very existence.

This author again expresses mystification that lovers of our holiest places who strive for possession of the entirety of Eretz Yisrael can, at the same time, hold to such a benign position regarding Shabbos observance, via:

A distorted sense of “acting for the sake of Shemayim” by way of “…a novel, misleading ideology, that evil must be tolerated by incorporating it into the Camp of Israel.” (R’Rafael Katzenellenbogen as cited in Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni referring to R’ Sonnenfeld re: Parshat Balak, page 1115)

May we, the B’nei 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 be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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 Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

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.

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