Parshat Eikev 5777: Eikev Mitzvot, Tefillot, “This Mitzvah” — Is It Shema or Shabbos?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Eikev is being sponsored by Dov and Lauren Greenberg of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated in honor of their son Moshe Yitzchak’s birthday. To the Greenberg 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 5777: Eikev Mitzvot, Tefillot, “This Mitzvah” — Is It Shema or Shabbos?

by Moshe Burt

Moshe continues his mussar speech to B’nei Yisrael in Parshat Eikev.

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)

The Stone Chumash (Parshat Eikev pages 980-981) cites Rashi in explaining Eikev:

“you will hearken [listen]“ = eikev — the reward: in midrashic terms also means the “heel”, alludes to the sort of commandments that people may regard as relatively unimportant, so they tend figuratively to “tread on them with their heels.” Thus, the Torah assures Israel that if they are careful to observe even these neglected commandments, they can be certain that Hashem will reward them with His Covenant and Kindness.

Stated another way, this means 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 are the small details, 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 three means of observance: 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. (ibid, Sefer Shem Mishmuel, page 386)

Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer “L’lmod U’lamed” cites expression of these three means of observance in a contemporary story during the Sho’a (Sefer “L’lmod U’lamed”, pages 165-166):

The ultimate test of one’s love of Hashem comes when forced to die for his loyalty to the Almighty. One of the many Jews who passed the test… the Radiziner Rav… [a] Tzaddik was a Jewish leader when the Nazis began their murderous rampage throughout Europe. As the butchers approached, the Radiziner Rav began planning an escape for fellow townfolk. Word of the plan leaked out… and the Rebbe was forced to flee. The Gestapo arrived in the town and demanded his return. The laid down an ultimatum: either the Radiziner came forward, or the entire town… would be killed instead.

When the town’s Gabbai heard of this, he donned his white Kittel and his Tallit, and presented himself to the Germans. The Gestapo seized him and killed him instantly, believing him to be the Rebbe. He had sacrificed his own life to save his leader.

However, the Germans were soon informed of the trick. Their anger grew, and they delivered their final set of conditions: either the Rebbe emerged from hiding within two hours, or the people of the town would be taken out one by one and shot.

The moment the Rebbe heard of this, he knew what he had to do. He left his refuge and declared, “I am the Radiziner. I am more than prepared to die in place of my fellow Jews, and to die in the service of Hashem.”

The remorseless Nazis dragged him in front of the town and murdered him on the spot. Before the final shots rang out, though, the Rabbe managed to cry out to… townfolk: “Do not surrender to these murderers! Resist! Remain loyal to Hashem! Shema Yisroel, Hashem Kelokeinu Hashem Echad! (Hear O Israel! Hashem is or L-ord!, Hashem is One!)”

With that said, these three means of observance relate to our Tefillot, intellectualizing it, taking our tefillot to heart, and physically manifesting our tefillot by our actions and Mitzvot.

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.

The Rabbis claim that it is Shabbos which is the Mitzvah. 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,prosperity and sovereignty 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…” (Studies in the Weekly Parsha, by Yehuda Nachshoni, Parsha 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 and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May 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 three 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 prevent Chas V’Challila 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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