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15 Av 5759 - July 28 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Chesed and Rachamim;
On the Threshold of Elul: A Shmuess for Parshas Eikev

By HaRav Sholom Schwadron zt"l

Part I

The Achilles Heel

"And it will be -- eikev tishme'un -- on account of your listening to these laws, and your guarding and keeping them, [then] Hashem will keep the covenant and the kindness which He promised to your forefathers" (Devorim 7:12). Rashi explains the words eikev tishme'un as follows: "And . . . if you listen to the easy, `insignificant' mitzvos, that are usually trodden under heel . . . Hashem will keep . . . "

Why does Rashi single out these mitzvos, and what is their deeper connection to the eikev, the heel, on account of which the Torah refers to them specifically by this name?

The reason for this allusion is that the heel is the part of the body that is least necessary for the maintenance of life, yet it nevertheless supports the entire body. In the same way, insignificant as certain mitzvos may appear to be, the stability and the observance of all the mitzvos that are incumbent upon us to fulfill depend on the wholehearted fulfillment of those mitzvos that are usually trodden underfoot.

If a person is careful to keep these "insignificant" mitzvos then he will keep all the other mitzvos as well.

Dovid Hamelech expressed this idea in the following posuk (Tehillim 49:6), "Why should I fear the days of evil [the infirmity of old age, in and of itself] when [it is] the sin of my heels [that] surrounds me [which I should truly fear]?" Chazal comment (in Yalkut Shimoni at the beginning of the parsha) "Dovid said, `Ribono Shel Olom, You gave us taryag mitzvos, of which some are of greater and some of lesser severity. I am not afraid of [having transgressed] the more severe ones, for on account of their very severity I take special care to avoid them. However, I am afraid of [having transgressed] the less severe ones, [those] to which people pay no attention, trampling them underfoot, whereas You have instructed, `And be as careful with a less severe mitzvo as with a severe one . . . '

The posuk therefore says, "And it will be eikev tishme'un . . . Dovid said to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, `Ribono Shel Olom, Your servant is also careful about them, for they carry eikev rov, great consequences [reward]' " (Tehillim 19:12). "How great is Your goodness . . . (Tehillim 31:20), this is the reward of the easy mitzvos." Here we see explicitly that the less severe mitzvos are termed eikev because they support a person, as above.

The Torah of the Easy Mitzvos

What is the next condition mentioned in the posuk? " . . . And you guard and keep them . . . "

Rashi comments [in parshas Voeschanan, on the posuk, "And you shall guard them and keep them, for it is your wisdom and understanding in the eyes of the nations . . . " (Devorim 4:6)]: "And you shall guard, this is mishna . . . According to this, guarding the mitzvos in our posuk in Eikev refers to learning mishnayos in order to be able to fulfill the less severe mitzvos, as if to say: if you learn mishna, you will be able to keep the easy mitzvos.

The connection between learning the halochos of the easy mitzvos and the great reward for keeping them is also evident from the context of the posuk quoted by the Yalkut, "for they carry eikev rov, great consequences [reward]," which is an enumeration of praises of the Torah: "More precious than gold and great amounts of fine gold, and sweeter than honey . . . Your servant is also careful about them, for they carry eikev rov." In other words, "They contain great reward for those who keep the easy mitzvos through learning Torah and mishna." This is utterly amazing!

The Slippery Slope

In the same perek, the posuk (13-14) says, "Who can understand [his own deeds so well, as to avoid any] mistakes [whatsoever], from [those] hidden aspects of my deeds [that were bad without my realizing,] cleanse me. Also withhold Your servant from zeidim, plotters, let them have no control over me, then I will have no blemish and will be innocent of great sins of rebellion." Rashi explains that "plotters" refers here not to malicious people but to aveiros that were done intentionally.

The pesukim are therefore telling us that even if a person transgresses an aveiro unintentionally, the yetzer hora has power over him to bring him to transgress intentionally R"l. If he is safe from mistakes, he'll certainly be safe from intentional sinning. This is the meaning of the previous posuk, "Your servant is careful with them," for by virtue of taking care with the easy mitzvos, a person is ultimately protecting himself from intentional and rebellious sinning R"l.

Rashi brings the parable of a pauper who comes to request a gift. First he asks for something small, which he'll be given readily. Then he gradually asks for more. First, Dovid Hamelech asked for help with the easy mitzvos, and gradually built up his prayer, to ask for help with the most severe type of aveiro.

However, there is something that needs to be understood according to Rashi's explanation. If zeidim refers to intentional aveiros, why is it necessary to pray for them to have no control over a person? If it referred to human plotters, the request for protection against their gaining control over oneself would be understandable. But how are we to understand it, if it refers to aveiros?

In line with the above approach, we can say that the closing up of the heart i.e. the loss of sensitivity to spirituality which Chazal told us is caused by doing an aveiro, takes place even in the case of an unintentional aveiro. The aveiros therefore take control of a person's heart. From sinning without intention, one can come to sin with intention. This was why Dovid Hamelech o'h, was asking for protection.

An Invaluable Deposit

A further appreciation of the posuk's words, "And Hashem will keep the covenant and the kindness for you, that He swore to your forefathers," can be gained from the following parable.

If a man possesses fifty dollars -- not the greatest sum -- he'll probably look after it at home. However, if he has ten thousand dollars to take care of, he'll look for a trustworthy bank in which to deposit it. We see that the larger the sum, the greater the level of protection the owner seeks. If Hashem Himself promises to "guard the covenant and the kindness," from the level of the protection He promised we infer that the deposit is immeasurably great. If a person keeps the easy mitzvos, the condition for Hashem"s promise, then Hakodosh Boruch Hu "keeps the promise and kindness for you."

In a comment on the posuk at the end of parshas Voeschanan (7:9), "You shall know that Hashem your G-d is the G-d, the faithful mighty One, who keeps the covenant and the kindness for those who love him and for those who keep His mitzvos, for a thousand generations," the medrash (Medrash Rabbah Eikev parsha 3:3) comments, "Rabbi Chiya bar Abba said, To what can this be compared? To a friend of a king who entrusted something to the king to look after for him. The king's friend died and his son came to ask the king for the charge.

"He said to him, `Give me the charge which my father entrusted to you.'

"The king said to him, `Have you found a better guardian than me? Haven't I looked after the deposit? Haven"t I folded it up [i.e. taken all the steps necessary to care for it]?' "

In other words, if Hakodosh Boruch Hu promises us to guard the covenant, there can be no better guardian!

Ultimate Faithfulness

The medrash then continues, " . . . the faithful mighty One . . . " The Rabbonon said, from human faithfulness you can learn about Divine faithfulness [i.e. from the level of trustworthiness which a human is capable of attaining, we can understand how faithful Hashem always is]. It once happened that Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir was living in a certain city in the South. Some people travelled there in order to earn money and they had two so'in of barley which they deposited with Rabbi Pinchos. They forgot about their barley and went on their way. Rabbi Pinchos would sow the grain every year [harvest, thresh and winnow it and] make it into a heap and bring it in for storage.

"When seven years had gone by, the two colleagues returned to the place to reclaim their barley. Rabbi Pinchos ben Yo'ir recognized them immediately and said to them, `Come and take your stores.' From this level of human faithfulness, we can see the extent of Hashem"s faithfulness."

If we consider that for seven years, Rabbi Pinchos sowed the barley, reaped the produce, prepared it and stored it away for protection, and that each year the amount of barley yielded was several-fold the amount sown, then after seven years, there must have been many fields full of barley and the two men must have been extremely wealthy. The medrash concludes that this teaches us about the extent of Hashem's faithfulness.

The gaon and tzaddik HaRav Eliyohu Lopian zt"l, explained the words of the tefilla where we say that Hakodosh Boruch Hu is zorei'ah tzedokos, matzmiach yeshu'os -- that He sows righteousness and brings forth salvations. Through a person's sowing the righteousness that he practices, he merits Hashem's bringing forth salvation and an unlimited abundance of good!

End of Part I

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