The Weekly Parsha: A New Dimension

by Rabbi Heshy Grossman

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PARSHAS EKEV

THE 'BIG' IMPACT OF 'SMALL' DEEDS

"V'Hayah Ekev Tishme'un Es HaMishpatim HaEleh U'Shmartem Va'Asisem Osam V'Shamar Hashem Elokeicha Lecha Es HaBris V'Es HaChesed Asher Nishba La'Avoseicha" (Devarim 7,12)

"V'Hayah Ekev Tishme'un" - "If the light Mitzvos (Kalos), that one tramples upon with his heel, you will listen to..." (Rashi, ad. loc.)

Rather than the simple meaning of 'Ekev' - 'as a result of', Rashi cites the Drasha of the Midrash, which interprets the alternative reading of "Ekev' - 'heel'.

The Maharal asks: How is that Mishpatim can be referred to as 'light' Mitzvos?

His answer will be the basis of our shiur.

"Every Mitzva contains numerous details. Even Shabbos, the most 'Chomur' of the commandments, has many precise details that are 'Kalos'." (Gur Aryeh)

The Meshech Chachmah, also commenting on the Drasha cited by Rashi, points out the discrepancy between our Pasuk and the end of V'Eschanan, where both Chukim and Mishpatim are mentioned.

He explains that the Torah is addressing people of elevated stature, to whom even the Chukim have the status of Mishpatim. That is to say, they understand the basis of the Chukim. Their observance of the Chukim is as natural to them as the Mishpatim, those Mitzvos which man has no difficulty in relating to.

The Midrash cites another idea alluded to by this verse.

"Said David before G-d: "Gam Avdecha Nizhar Bahem, B'Shamram Ekev Rav" "Mah Rav Tuvecha [Asher Tzofanta L'Reacha], this is the reward for 'Mitzvos Kalos'.

Here, our Sages combine the two meanings of 'Ekev', teaching us that the great rewards promised to the B'nai Yisrael come 'Ekev' - 'in the wake of' the light mitzvos that one normally tramples over.

In this shiur we will explain these ideas, demonstrating why small deeds are the greatest indication of man's true charachter.

1

Chazal describe the similar process by which both Moshe Rabbeinu and David HaMelech were chosen as leaders of Klal Yisrael. After proving themselves as tender and caring shepherds, Hashem says, "since he knows how to care for sheep, let him come and graze My flock". (Shmos Rabbah, 2,2)

Every Jew strives to reach the heights in his religious observance. This yearning is mandatory, as Chazal state, "Every person is obligated to say, 'When will my deeds reach those of my forefathers'. " (Tana D'be Eliyahu 25)

As a result, in man's haste to perform acts of great consequence, he tends to ignore minor details that he views as inconsequential to his lofty goal. Many people have built impressive Jewish institutions, aiming to save the world, only to ignore each particular individual.

This is not the way of Torah.

"And the earth produced vegetation, plants whose seed reproduces according to their species" - "Although the expression 'L'Mineihu' [according to their species] was not mentioned in the command given to vegetation, they heard that the trees were so commanded and they applied the principle of 'Kal V'Chomer' to themselves" (Rashi, B'reishis 1,12)

"If the trees [which always reproduce 'according to their species and] do not intermingle, were nevertheless commanded by Hashem to reproduce 'according to their species', we [who reproduce indiscriminately] must certainly {do so]." (Chulin 60a)

The Alter of Slabodka asks: The vegetation had before them the fulfillment of a G-dly task, to actualize G-d's command of creation, how is it that in place of zealously carrying out their mandate they concern themselves with the peripheral functions of order and beauty?

"We learn that every creature must take precise care when fulfilling G-d's command that everything is done perfectly, with nothing defective or out of place."

"Now, if vegetation, or wildlife, who have no knowledge or understanding, and are not commanded so, perform thusly, all the more so, a human being, who has been graced with G-dly intellect, with wisdom and understanding, how very careful he should be, even when performing lofty Mitzvos - that no aspect of Seder Olam be defective, as trivial as the matter may appear to be" (Ohr HaTzafun, pg.61)

Why is this so?

Attention to detail reveals much about one's outlook towards his task. One who views the Mitzvos as a burden, will do only the bare necessity, unloading his obligation with a sloppy and minimalist performance. In contrast, the man who sees Mitzvos as an opportunity to fulfill G-d's will, strives to execute with alacrity every detail of G-d's precious command. He hopes to find favor in His eyes, constantly searching for new subtleties that enhance his performance. As the vegetation of creation, he looks beyond mere fulfillment of G-d's command. He yearns to please G-d, not to appease Him.

2

"They [the Romans] brought Rebbi Chanina ben Tradyon before them.

'Why have you involved yourself with Torah?'

'As Hashem, my G-d, has commanded me'

Immediately, it was decreed, that he be burned to death, his wife be executed, and his daughter forced into a den of prostitution, because he had uttered the [ineffable] Name of G-d.....Why did he do that?...He was doing it for teaching purposes [in which case it is permissible]...If so, why was he punished? Because he uttered G-d's name publicly. And his wife...because she didn't protest...and his daughter, as R. Yochanan said: Once, his daughter was walking before the noblemen of Rome. They said, 'How pleasantly does this young girl walk!' Immediately, she took even greater care with her steps.

This is as R. Shimon b. Lakish said: What is meant by the verse 'Avon Akeivai Yesubeini' - 'the sin of my heel surrounds me'? Sins that man tramples upon in this world, surround him on the day of judgment." (Avoda Zara 17b-18a)

This incident parallels our above discussion of reward, from the opposite perspective. The punishment for incidental and seemingly trivial misdeeds far exceeds what we would imagine. Why?

The Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 3,18) explains that reward and punishment are not based upon the value of one's deeds, but, rather, on the state of his soul.

Unlike the common belief that man is destined to cash in his tickets and claim his prize, the next world is not a dividend for good behavior. Good deeds are rewarded because they reflect man's connection to Hashem. Gehinnom is a natural outgrowth of sin, fitting for the man who has removed himself from G-d's presence.

Man's actions can be divided into two categories. Certain deeds are a conscious result of planning and forethought, while others may be innocent slips, incidental occurrences of happenstance or habit.

Which of these more accurately measure man's true self?

Before we answer, let us study an incident recorded in Nazir 52b.

The gemara discusses an argument between Rebbi Akiva and the Sages. The opinion of Rebbi Akiva is cited regarding a Revi'is of blood from two corpses. Under normal circumstances, this would be a sufficient amount to render impure all those who were under the same roof. The fact that the blood is not from one corpse, however, complicates the matter. According to certain opinions, the minimal shiur for tumah, a revi'is, must be from one body.

"Said Rebbi to Bar Kapara: 'Do not learn that Rebbi Akiva reversed his decision regarding a revi'is of blood, because the studies of Rebbi Akiva are [well-arranged] in his hand.' [He would never reverse this decision].....

Rebbe Shimon said: 'During his lifetime he was M'Tamei, if after death he reversed his decision or not, I don't know.'

Tanna: His [Rebbe Shimon] teeth turned black because of his [many] fasts." (Nazir 52b)

Tosafos explains why Rebbe Shimon felt the need to fast in repentance.

"Because it is not Derech Eretz to speak of one's Rebbi in this fashion..."

As in the case of Rebbi Chanina ben Tradyon's daughter, a witness to this scene would be hard-pressed to define the precise sin of Rebbi Shimon, much less understand the need to fast in repentance.

Yet, Rebbi Shimon is aware of a deeper truth.

He understands that words uttered inadvertently, when one's guard is down, reflects an aspect of self that one normally hides. When man weighs his actions, he carefully chooses the most beneficial approach. An action committed by chance reveals his natural disposition. It is a window to his soul.

Rebbi Shimon would never voice a disrespectful remark to his Rebbe. But, in the course of argument, a statement lacking Kavod Rav escapes his lips. He trembles at the revelation, discovering a defect in the depths of his heart. It will take years of repentance to expunge his guilt. It is not the deed that he must purge, but it is his basic charachter that he attempts to transform.

So too, the daughter of Rebbi Chanina ben Tradyon. She took notice of the complimentary words of Roman noblemen. She paid attention to detail, doublechecking the propriety of her path. Seemingly by chance, apparently unmindful, she reveals that awareness of superficialities is part of her nature.

Her punishment reflects what the details reveal.

Which details do we pay heed to? Why is it that we take care of every aspect of our wardrobe, but feel that we can live without knowing the precise Pshat in Tosafos? Could it be that we are more in tune with how we look to man, rather than where we stand with G-d?

3

Rav Yitzchak Hutner writes of his fascination with history, how seemingly trivial matters sparked a chain of events that change the course of mankind. Chazal mention the rejection by R.Yehoshua ben Perachiah as the catalyst for the downslide of "Oso HaIsh". Would not the world be a different place without the rise of Christianity? Could it be that billions of people are led astray by one act of a teacher to his student?

Rav Hutner concurs, and this is precisely our point.

"It is not historical events that appear different in light of their simple origins, but, the deeds of man...that are revealed in new form. When I take notice of a world gone awry as a result of one particular push, that happened one day, long ago, I see the destiny; the weight, carried by one little move in the life of man.

We began our shiur by questioning why the promised rewards of Parshas Ekev are a result of the small deeds that man tends to ignore. The answer should be clear. Reward is what man deserves, a reflection of his eternal soul. It is the big man who pays heed to every detail. He knows the impact of a word. He understands that G-dliness is reflected in every aspect of his life, and strives to perfect his world accordingly.

The man of stature recognizes the eternal nature of his soul, and attempts to actualize its potential. It is the deeds that come naturally, whether by habit or chance, that indicate to him the extent of his success, and are the measure of his reward.

The reward that comes 'ekev', a natural result of the deeds that noone else notices.

As the Meshech Chachma states, for him, even the Chukim have the status of Mishpatim.

All of mankind relate to the Mishpatim. They share the aspects of basic common-sense that mortal man can truly understand. The man who can rise above the rest sees the Chukim as well, those Mitzvos based on G-dly reasoning, as in tune with the lofty level he has worked to achieve.

He doesn't do good deeds for the benefit it brings, or the reward he will receive. He overflows with the Mitzvos that reflect his deepest self. He has elevated his nature to the point where the will of Hashem is identical to his own. As our Talmud records, even his inadvertant word becomes Torah, reverberating for posterity.

" 'Ekev' - teaching of the ultimate reward, the true reward alluded to in the verse 'V'Yado Ochezes B'Akev Esav' - 'And his hand grabbed hold of Esav's heel'. Teaching that Yaakov didn't want the reward of this world, but rather, the reward of the next world, for the Tzaddikim at the end of days.

And this is 'And his hand grabbed hold of Esav's heel', his hand grabs the heel, the last part of the body." (Tzror HaMor, Ekev)

The heel is the least sensitive part of the human body. It can withstand impact without being felt.

It is here that Yaakov claims his just reward.

For the Mitzvos that others stepped on. For the details that others ignored.

For the Torah that lies abandoned, waiting only for someone to notice.

Have a good Shabbos!

Any questions or comments? Address them to: grossman@actcom.co.il


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