Parsha Eikev – 5777

Parshat Eikev In-Depth

“Because you hearken to these laws (Deuteronomy 7:12)

The commentaries dwell on the Hebrew word eikev in this verse—an uncommon synonym for “because.” Many see a connection with the word akeiv (same spelling, different pronunciation), which means “heel.”

Rashi interprets this as an allusion to those mitzvot which a person tramples with his heels—the Torah is telling us to be equally diligent with all of G‑d’s commandments, no less with those that seem less significant to our finite minds.

Ibn Ezra and Nachmanides interpret it in the sense of “in the end” (i.e., “in the heels of,” or in the sense that the heel is at the extremity of the body)—the reward being something that follows the action. A similar interpretation is given by Ohr HaChaim, who explains that true satisfaction and fulfillment comes at the “end”—the complete fulfillment of all the mitzvot, and by Rabbeinu Bechayei, who sees it as an allusion that the reward we do receive in this world is but a lowly and marginal (the “heel”) aspect of the true worth of the mitzvot.”

Torah Sparks: Eikev 5777

“In game theory a zero-sum game is one in which each participant’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participants. A person cutting up a cake who takes a larger slice thereby reduces the amount of cake available for others.

I imagine we are all only too familiar in these difficult times with video clips of confrontations connected to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The current crisis on the mountain blew up after the killing of two Israeli Druze policemen on 14th July, since when at least five Palestinians have been killed in clashes and three Israeli civilians have been stabbed to death. Israel’s moves after July 14th to ensure security on the mountain were perceived by many Palestinians as a threat to the status quo. Changes in the status quo are normally viewed by both sides as zero-sum, in other words that one side will gain at the other’s expense, and are therefore resisted vigorously. The mountain is a permanent flashpoint for violence since victory for one side is perceived as defeat for the other.”

Not by Bread Alone: Strange Food from the Sky

“Several years ago, I saw in London an extraordinary play entitled “Not by Bread Alone.” The eleven actors, from an Israeli company called Nalaga’at (meaning “please touch”), were all deaf and blind. As the audience entered, they were sitting at a long table on the stage, each one kneading dough that would be baked during the course of the performance. At the end, the audience was invited to come to the stage to taste the bread. But the main purpose was not for us to eat the delicious warm bread, but to communicate on some level, by touch, with the actors who could not hear our applause or see our smiles.

Deuteronomy 8:3, a long and rather complex verse near the beginning of our parashah, Eikev, contains one of the most familiar phrases of the Bible: “Lo al halechem l’vado yich’yeh ha-adam … ””

Living the Good Life

“Ah! Living the good life! The words conjure up villas on the Mediterranean, fancy cars, gourmet meals, fashionable clothes, consorting with the well-to-do.

On the other hand, living the good life is the fundamental question that religions try to answer. There are myriad answers, and over the millennia Judaism has managed to give many of them.

Some religions say that having material possessions and good fortune are a mark that one is blessed or among the elect or has grace, while poverty and bad fortune are a mark of those who are not blessed. Some religions would take the opposite view and see those who are the most blessed and holy as those who eschew material possessions and who do good works among the poor and outcast.”

Haftarah Eikev

“After the exile at the hands of the Babylonians, it was totally reasonable for the people of Judea to experience insecurity. It was totally understandable for some to feel that the nation would never be rebuilt and that the exile to Babylonia would never end. While the prophet Jeremiah’s message of defeat and exile was also marked with elements of hope amidst the despair, his message was very much shaped by the idea of divine abandonment. This idea was perpetuated by one very forceful image. Jeremiah compared the relationship between the harried nation and God to that of a married couple whose marriage was deeply troubled, potentially warranting divorce: “I noted: Because rebel Israel had committed adultery, I cast her off (shilakhteha) and handed her a bill of divorce (sefer krituteha): yet her sister, faithless Judah, was not afraid – she too went and whored.” (Jeremiah 3:8)”