Friday, August 26, 2016

Parshas Eikev

This Week’s Parsha – Eikev:

Sorry for not uploading something last week, but here is this week's edition:  This week’s parsha is Eikev, and it discusses a lot of Mussar/rebuke (also discipline, or self-improvement) topics.  Such as not being haughty, and always remembering Hashem, and more.  The first part of the parsha discusses that if we listen to Hashem’s Commandments, then He will bless us, give us good things, etc.  Now, the Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits shlita) explains a beautiful concept in life:  Hashem is always close to us (not physically, but spiritually), and He never moves away.  However, how then can a person be far from Hashem?  Answers the Nikolsburger shlita, if we, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid do aveiros/transgressions (sins) then Hashem does not move away from us – He never does.  However, we move away from Him!!!  He is naturally close to us, and we are supposed to move even closer to Him – getting closer and closer always.  But if a person, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid sins, then they move away and farther from Hashem.  And Reb Lebovits shlita even goes further and explains that the person who moves away from Hashem will not receive the Berachos/Blessings which Hashem always sends us.  Hashem always sends us blessings, however, he explains beautifully, if a person, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid sins and moves farther from Hashem, then these blessings that Hashem always sends us won’t even reach us (again, spiritually)!!  Hashem continues to send us all the blessings, but they just don’t reach us, because we moved too far away.[1]  (This is a deep concept, and it requires thought or maybe a better explanation.  Also, it is not to be taken on a physical level.  You can find the original text on on Parshas Pinchas, with the title ‘Reward for Mitzvohs’).  May Hashem help everyone to always come closer to Him, keep His Commandments, and serve Him properly and in truth forever, Amein vi’Amein, so may it be His Will. 
Now on to the parsha:  So the first passuk/verse in the parsha is ‘Vi’haya eikev tishmi’un eis hamishpatim ha’eileh, u’shi’martem va’asisem osam, vi’shamar Hashem Elokecha li’cha es haBris vi’es haChesed, asher nishba la’Avosecha/And it will be because you will listen to these laws, and you will guard them to do them, and Hashem your G-d will guard for you the Covenant and the Kindness that He swore to your forefathers.’  There are some nice Mefarshim/commentaries which I would like to share with you on this passuk/verse:  
1) Rashi quotes from Tanchuma which explains that, though in this verse ‘Eikev’ means ‘because’, it can also mean ‘heel’.  So this verse teaches us that even the Commandments which we regard lightly, and “tred on them with our heels” we must keep to higher levels, just like the other ones.  What is an example of a law which we “tred on with our heels”, i.e. regard lightly?  The Alter of Kelm (HaRav Simcha Zissel Ziv zt”l) explains that one of these things is the prohibition of bitul Torah/wasting time instead of learning Torah.[2]  We all know that we don’t treat this prohibition with enough gravity.  It is actually very serious, but we seem not to notice.  And a big lesson for us here is that we must try never to take any Commandment lightly.  All of them are necessary and very important.
2) The Baal HaTurim (HaRav Yaakov ben Asher zt”l) explains that the word עקב has the Gematria/numerical value of 172.  This, he explains, is the same number as the amount of words in the Ten Commandments (the set in Parshas Yisro). 
3) The Tzemach Tzedek (The Third Lubavitcher Rebbe – Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l – not to be confused with the seventh Rebbe, who had the same name) says that the time of Ikvesa D’Meshicha (the generation right before the coming of Mashiach) is called ‘the heels of Mashiach’.  For two reasons:  A) Because this generation is spiritually the lowest, just like the heel is the lowest part of the body, and B), it is the generation when the “footsteps of Mashiach” can already be heard, so to speak.  And so he explains that this is the generation that will eventually actually keep the Commandments, and return to Hashem.  As Rambam says “The Torah has already promised that the People of Israel will return to Hashem at the end of their Exile, and they will be immediately redeemed.”[3]
4) The Apter Rebbe (Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel of Apta zt”l) explains that, as we saw before, the word ‘Eikev’ can mean heel.  This, since it is at the end of the body, can imply ‘in the end’.  So he says that the Torah is implying that ‘in the end’ we will listen to Hashem’s Commandments, so why not do so now?[4]  We always must listen to Hashem’s Commandments! 
5) The Kotzker Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Morgenstern of Kotzk zt”l) explains, just like Reb Tzvi Hirsch zt”l did above, that ‘Eikev’ can imply ‘in the end’.  And so, he explains, the Torah is teaching us that ‘in the end’ the goal is ‘tishmi’un eis hamishpatim ha’eileh...etc./you will listen to these laws...etc.’ The goal of a person is always to serve Hashem and keep His Commandments.  And when you have been keeping them, then what to do next?  Continue keeping the Commandments!![5] The goal is always to serve Hashem, and may He help everyone to do this in truth and properly, always, Amein vi’Amein. 
6) The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt”l) explains that, as we know, and have mentioned a lot, the word ‘Eikev’ can mean ‘heel’ and the heel is the bottommost part of the body.  And so, he says, the Torah is teaching us this:  Even the lowest part of our body must listen to Hashem’s Commandments and serve Him.  Every single part of our body we must use to serve Hashem, He is Blessed.[6]  This is a great lesson. 
7) The Nikolsburger Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yechiel Michel Lebovits zt”l) explains that, as we saw above, ‘Eikev’ (heel) can refer to the period of Ikvesa D’Meshicha.  And, additionally, he explains that the word ‘tishmi’un/you will listen’ can also mean ‘you will gather’ (such as in the verse in Shmuel I 15:4 ‘Va’yi’shama Shaul/And Shaul gathered....etc.’ So, he says, this teaches us that ‘Eikev’ – in the days of Ikvesa D’Meshicha, ‘tishmi’un’ we need to gather together, and that will help us to see whether we are doing right or wrong.[7]  It is very important for Jews to come together as a people and have Achdus/oneness. 
Now back to the parsha:  Moshe Rabbeinu tells the Jews that if we keep the Commandments, then Hashem will bless us in many ways, and he enumerates some of them.  One of them is that Hashem will make us consume (so to speak) the nations which Hashem gives us, i.e. delivers into our hands.  I believe the Torah here is talking about the nations who occupied Israel at that time.  We are not supposed to even have pity on those nations.  Also, we should not fear them, because we should remember what Hashem did to Paroah, when He saved us.  The Torah talks about some of the things which Hashem did for us that would help us realize not to be scared, because He controls the world.  If Hashem could save us then, He obviously can still save us!  It is hard as a human being, not to be scared of things; I mean, there are scary things, right?  But if a person relies on Hashem (as we are being told to in this verse), and realizes that He controls everything, then there is never anything to fear; except for Him, of course!  The Torah here is teaching us the lesson, and reminding us of the fact that Hashem can do anything!  Don’t fear other things; there is no need to.  Hashem can do anything, and He can protect you.  As HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff shlita discusses, remembering times where Hashem obviously protected you (which, for real is always and at every moment) can help you trust in Him.[8]  We must realize that Hashem controls the world!  Trusting in Hashem is a very, very fundamental and important thing in every person’s life.  And also, remembering always that Hashem is in control. 

Now back to the parsha:  Moshe also tells the Jews that we must keep the Commandments that he is telling us, in order that we will live, and multiply, and take possession of the Land (Israel) that Hashem swore to our forefathers.  Moshe also tells us about remembering the things that Hashem did for us in the Wilderness.  This is important for every person, for we should all remember how Hashem leads us personally through life, and how He always protects us.  At the beginning of the second Aliyah, Moshe Rabbeinu warns us not to forget Hashem.  And he discusses how we must be careful that when we eat and are satisfied, and have lots of good things, not to forget Hashem.  One of the things that could, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid lead to this, is if our heart, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid gets haughty.  Haughtiness is very bad.  In fact, the Baal Shem Tov (Rebbe Yisroel ben Eliezer zt”l) asks; why does the Torah not command us not to become haughty, but only tells us to guard against it?  And he answers:  If not being haughty, and being humble was a Commandment, a person, if they believed that they had performed it, might think, feel, or say that they have mastered one of the Commandments.  And this would then lead them to gaava/haughtiness![9] What a lesson! 

Anyway, sometimes, if Hashem blesses us with lots of riches, we might, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid start thinking that it is because of us that we have this stuff!  If we think about this, it turns out that it is absolute foolishness:  Hashem is the One Who gives us every single thing we have, and we would, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid think that it is from us, and forget Hashem?!  We must always guard ourselves against this. 
Back to the parsha:  Also in this Aliyah, Moshe again tells the Jews not to be afraid of the nations whom they will be fighting against, because Hashem passes over the Yardein/Jordan before them.  Moshe needed to encourage the Jews a lot, always reminding them to trust in Hashem.  However, Moshe tells us, do not, (Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid) think that because of our righteousness and the wickedness of the nations does Hashem bring us to take possession of the Land (of Israel).  Not because we are deserving, but because the nations are very wicked, and in order to establish the matter that He swore to our forefathers.  Not because of our righteousness, because we did lots of bad things.  And Moshe then follows up and tells us about some of the bad things which we did in the Wilderness, where we rebelled against Hashem.  Sforno (HaRav Ovadia Sforno zt”l) explains that by reminding the Jews about some of the bad things they did, he was proving to us that it, indeed was not because of our deservedness that Hashem was bringing us into Israel.  (True, reminding people of when they sinned when they have already repented for it is a bad thing, as Bava Metzia teaches us, but not in this case, for a lot of reasons). 
So one of the episodes where we sinned that Moshe recalled was the Cheit ha’eigel/Sin of the Calf, and he recounts the incident to the Jews.  And Moshe goes on to give the Jews a lot more Mussar/discipline (or rebuke, etc.).  Such as about fearing Hashem, clinging to Him, loving Him, serving Him, keeping His Commandments, walking in His Ways, etc.  He also reminds us of more Commandments.  Let us try to always remember Hashem and serve Him in truth, and may He help everyone to do this, Amein, vi’Amein, so may it be His Will. 
There are 111 Passukim/verses in this parsha. 
Have a wonderful, wonderful Shabbos everyone!!!
Refoel Berel

[1]©.  'Parshas Pinchos 5776 - Reward for Mitzvohs'.
[2]©.  'Parashat Ekev'.  Shiur given by HaRav Elyakim Rosenblatt shlita.
[3]©.  Parshat Eikev - 'Parshah In-Depth'
[4] Four Chassidic Masters, page 216.  A PocketScroll© book.  A Shaar Press© Publication.  By Rebbe Avraham J. Twerski M.D. shlita. 
[5]; Parshat Eikev.  'Three quick Kotzker Torahs and a bonus Hafiz poem'.  From Ohel Torah of the Kotzker Rebbe zt"l. 
[6]©.  Parshat Eikev - 'Parshah In-Depth'.
[7]©.  'The Test of the Manna'. 
[8]©.  'Parashat Ekev'.  Shiur given by HaRav Moshe Tuvia Lieff shlita. 
[9]©.  Parshat Eikev - 'Parshah In-Depth'.

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