Weekly Reading Insights

Ekev 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Ekev
To be read on 18 Av 5763 (Aug.16)

Torah: Deut. 7:12-11:25; Haftorah: Isaiah 49:14-51:3 (second of the seven "Haftorahs of Consolation")

Pirkei Avot - Chapter Five

Stats: Ekev , 3rd Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and 46th overall, contains 6 positive mitzvot and 2prohibitive mitzvot. It is written on 232 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 14th out of 54 in overall length.

Overview: Eikev opens listing the rewards the Jews receive for keeping G-ds mitzvahs. G-d guarantees to overthrow the kingdoms living in Israel to allow the Jews to live and prosper there. The Jews are warned not be so distracted by physical comforts as to forget G-d, or they will be punished. Then they are reminded of all the good and miracles G-d performed for them and His forgiving of their numerous provocations, including the sin of the golden calf. Moshe tells how he carved the second tablets and learned Torah with G-d for 40 days and nights. Moshe goes on to praise G-d, encourage the Jews to follow His ways, and to recognize His great deeds done on their behalf. He explains that the Land of Israel requires rain (unlike Egypt which was irrigated by the Nile) and therefore needs G-ds attention. Therefore (verses 11:13-21 are the second paragraph of Shma), G-d will cause good rains to fall (as well as other rewards) if the Jews keep His commandments.


"They have quickly turned aside from the way... they have made a molten image." (9:12)

Not every transgression causes a Jew to immediately abandon the straight and narrow and completely forfeit his connection to the Jewish people. The sin of idol worship, however, is so elemental and consequential that the very first step in its direction tears the Jew away from everything that is holy. As it states in the Talmud (Hulin): "An apostate who commits idolatry thereby rejects the entire Torah."


(The Rebbe, Reb Heshel)

M: 46-63Ekev)


Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

Prayer -- our thanks to G-d and our praising Him as well as our petitioning Him -- is part of what is called "Avodat Hashem," service of G-d, as is our eating and drinking when it is designed to help us serve G-d better. Nowadays, our "table" fulfils the mystical dimensions of what used to be the Temple Service. Instead of the sacrificial offerings being consumed at the altar, we consume our meals after and before benedictions expressing our awareness of the One who supplies our needs.

We become like angels when the food we consume is of the right kind and we consume it in a state of sanctity. Just as physical food gives us our continued existence on earth, so do our souls serve as "sustenance" for the angels and assure their continued existence. We know that the angels need to feed on something, as it is written in Nehemiah (9:6), "You provide sustenance for them all."

But for human beings, their consumption of food can become similar to the spiritual forces released by the offering of sacrifices. This is the reason why the Torah links the saying of Grace to the gift of the Land of Israel and its goodness in Deut. (8:10). The reference is not to terrestrial Eretz Yisrael [for if this were so, why should we have to say the Grace for meals consumed in the Diaspora? -- translator]. The mystical element involved is that the Celestial Eretz Yisrael is perceived as the top of the domains of the emanations, the tenth emanation of Olam HaAtzilut.

The Zohar on the Parasha (Sulam edition page 18), describes the ten rules governing the way in which we must consume our meals as an allusion to this tenth emanation. The ten rules [based on the Sabbath Eve meal -- translator] comprise: 1) washing one's hands; 2) preparing two whole loaves of bread; 3) consuming three meals; 4) lighting a candle on the table to symbolize the candles in the Temple which stood next to the table with the showbreads; 5) the benediction of VaYechulu over a cup of wine; 6) speaking words of Torah during the meal; 7) ensuring that poor people are invited to the meal; 8) washing one's hands prior to reciting Grace; 9) reciting Grace; 10) drinking the wine of the cup upon which Grace was recited. [The author may have intimated a subsequent part of the Zohar in which ten rules are listed governing eating on weekdays, including such details as which hand to wash first, which hand has to raise the bread, not to eat hastily, etc. -- translator]

(adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Zefat on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

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"And behold, following (in Hebrew, "ekev") the edicts which you heard..." (Deut. 7:12)
Rashi explains that the word "ekev" literally means "heel". He says that this verse is referring to the easy and habitual mitzvot that a person may sometimes feel are unimportant and therefore metaphorically treads upon with his heel. It is our job to be careful with all of the mitzvot, even the easy ones, so that our whole bodies - from head to heel - are serving G-d.

The beginning words "Ekev tishmiun" can be translated as "the heel will be heard". Each new generation is compared to the heel of a foot while previous generations are considered like "heads". Because they were closer to the source, earlier generations were capable of fulfilling mitzvot with higher levels of spiritual understanding to which we are mostly oblivious. Nevertheless, our deeds are "heard", as the verse affirms. G-d accepts the mitzvot of our generation as if we, too, had the higher spiritual consciousness. This is because we have a strength earlier generations did not have. Our faith is so strong we can serve G-d even in our relative blindness.

From a different perspective, our era is also dubbed "the footheels of Mashiach", referring to the period of time immediately preceding Mashiach's arrival. During this era, it was foretold, perception of G-dly revelation will be reduced, and that people will fulfill mitzvot by "accepting the Heavenly yoke" even with only minimal understanding. However, this in itself is an act of great merit. Mashiach's arrival will be hastened because of the great self sacrifice required of us.

There is another way to explain the expression of "the heel [or 'the last or end'] will be heard". Later in the portion, commenting on the verse "All the commandment that I command you today, be careful to do it..." (Deut. 8:1), Rashi derives the concept that the one who completes a mitzvah ("all of the commandment"), is credited with it. He explains that it was the Jews who entered the Land after 40 years who were credited with the mitzvah of burying Joseph. This was despite the fact that Moses alone was initially responsible for retrieving Joseph's body and taking it to Israel.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe says that similarly, one might also think that the previous, higher generations would be credited with the final, impending redemption, because of their elevated service of G-d, incomparably greater than our own. Nevertheless, we learn from here that our lowly generation is the one who will usher in the final redemption, and thus will receive the credit. The heel will be heard.

"And you ate mannah...in order to inform you that by bread alone man is not sustained, but rather by G-d's utterance will man live." (Deut. 8:3)
When the Jews in the desert ate the mannah, bread from Heaven, they felt as though they were being nourished by the G-dliness of the food and not from its physicality. They understood from this that, similarly, it would not be the physical food they would eat when they came into the Holy Land that would sustain them, but rather the spiritual energy within the food. This is the inner meaning of the end of the verse, that we live by divine utterance. When a Jew makes a blessing before eating his food, using G-d's name, and focusing on the meaning of the words he reveals the spiritual life-force that is in the food and is sustained by it.


Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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