Parshas Eikev: The Meaning of Judaism

This week’s Parsha is named Eikev. The word “Eikev” means “because”, but this is a very unusual synonym, and as such, many of the great Sages and rabbis have paid special attention to this term. The majority of them believe that it denotes a connection to the word “Akeiv”, which is spelled the same way, and means “heel”. But why “heel”? How is this relevant to the verse, “Because you hearken to these laws”?

Rashi believes that this word is used to bring to mind certain mitzvos- “those which a person tramples with his heels”. At first glance, this suggests that Rashi’s message is one of respecting and abiding by even the “smallest” and seemingly least significant mitzvos, but perhaps it echoes the message of Parshas Shloch and refers to the physical nature of some mitzvos. This would suggest that one cannot disregard the mitzvos which deal with “mundane” matters, and that these are just as important as lofty matters such as Torah study.

Indeed, this matter of the fine balancing act between lofty and mundane mitzvos appears in the Rebbe’s interpretation of the verse. Our commitment to Yiddishkeit and to the Torah, he comments, should be all consuming, to the point where it extends beyond the Holy days, and what happens in prayer and Torah study. The “lowliest” part of our life is actually the foundation- the heel- of our relationship with G-d. Simple things like food and clothing are elevated to be Holy and important.

Combining these two interpretations, we come to what is perhaps the centre of an observant Jewish lifestyle. Torah observance, and a love for Torah and the mitzvos, must be at the core of every area of our life. It’s not enough to only be a Torah observant Jew when we are in shul; we must also govern our behaviour, actions and speech in accordance with Torah law.

The word “Eikev”, the name of this week’s Sedra, is more than just a mere word. Every word of the Torah is special and rich with meaning- and Eikev teaches us what it means to be a Jew.

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