By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And As a Result of Listening to My Commandments…
And I shall put Hashem before me, that You shall have compassion upon me still in my exile so that You redeem me, and awaken my heart to Your love, and then I will keep your commandments and statutes without sorrow and pray properly [before You]…” (Prayer said before Kiddush) The cessation of exile and the imbibing of the redeeming spirit of the Holy Land means also the cessation of sorrow and the renewal of inspired prayer to the individual and to our nation. The name of this parsha, Ekev, literally can mean “heel”, and indeed Rashi comments that this term comes to denote that “through keeping the mitzvoth that one passes by the “heel”, [i.e seemingly “insignificant” mitzvoth], one will achieve the blessings that are mentioned at the beginning of this parsha. Taking in mind that this parsha is full of praises for the Land of Israel, we can also gain another interpretation of “mitzvoth done by the heel”, i.e the mitzvoth pertaining to the Land on which one walks upon by the “heel.” Indeed, our Sages teach that just walking in the Land of Israel is very meritorious, saying that “anyone who walks four cubits in the Land of Israel is considered to have a portion to the World to Come” (Ketubot 111a).
All this said, the simple translation of the word “ekev” in the beginning of this parsha is “as a result.” Is there some connection between the literal translation of this term “as a result” and its more homiletic interpretation in our parsha’s context – “heel”? We may say that, although our minds are an important cause of what we do, nevertheless our “heels”, i.e our actual movement through the realities of life, carry important weight in the cause and effect dynamic of what we do and even what we think or want. In this way we can synthesize the meaning of “ekev” as “as a result/because” with the meaning of “ekev” as “heel”, the symbol of movement and also habit. The word for habit or continuity in modern Hebrew is also “ikviut”, taken from the same verb root “ekev.” This synthesis of mind and action/movement through habit can be illustrated by Hillel’s statement: “to the place that I love, to there my feet lead me.” Based on all this, we may say that, although the “heel” in the term “ekev” is very action oriented, nevertheless this term carries also much emphasis on the mind and on the consciousness. Based on this, we can understand why the verb root “Ekev” can also mean to “outsmart” or even to “trick (through intelligence),” as Onkelos translates Esau’s statement “therefore he is called Yakov for he has “yaakveni” twice”. Onkelos translate “yaakveni” as “hacmani” (as in “chochma”=wisdom) which means to “outsmart”, a matter that intriguingly connects the verb root “ekev” to the mind and even to wisdom. In the case of Yakov, whose name is directly derived from the verb root “ekev”, we see that at his birth his “hand” – “yad” – held the “heel” – “ekev” of Esau, hence the name “Y” (from “yad”= “yod”) + “ekev” = “Yakov”. As we just mentioned, later Esau remarks that Yakov’s name is also connected to “outsmarting” or wisdom. According to our explanation these two explanations of Yakov’s name are essentially one. “Ekev” carries the deep synthesis of the abstract mind and earthly action.
This week’s parsha “Ekev” also elaborates on the connection between the abstract Divine and the earthly, describing how the Divine connection to Hashem is directly linked to earthly prosperity, and also how our simple earthly actions are important on a Divine level. This matter also explains why the praise of the Land of Israel is such an important element of this parsha. It is the Land of Israel which is both earthly and Divine, allowing us to experience Hashem’s Providence upon us in our very lives. Our Sages teach that the “head” of Esau was buried at the “feet” of Yakov at Maarat HaMachpela. This teaching adds meaning to the interesting synthesis of mind and action involved with Yakov, also hinting to the power of Yakov to harness the “mind/intellect” of Esau the Wicked (as in “elevating good sparks from evil”) to the service of the Divine. This is also the power of Hebron, the City of Unity, Beacon of the Holy Land.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #274
As befitting our parsha, which praises the Land, tell your own story or a friend’s story in praise of the Land of Israel, to your friends and/or family.
Sources: Sefer Hebron
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