Insights on Parshat Eikev
This Parsha (section) starts in D’varim (Deuteronomy) 7:12 and ends on 11:25.
The word Eikev in Hebrew is equivalent to the word for reward, or consequence in English. The root is A-K-V. This root is also the root for the name Ya’akov (Jacob). Ya’akov received his name because he was hanging on the heel of his brother Eisav (Esau). In English what is a reward or consequence but an action that follows on the heels of another action.
In this Parsha, I get the impression that HaShem (G-d) is teaching us an overarching principle of keeping ourselves humble.
Verse 8:2 states, “You shall remember the entire road on which HaShem, your G-d, led you these forty years in the Wilderness so as to afflict you, to test you, to know what is in your heart, whether you would observe His commandments or not.” In order to a person to be humble that person needs to remember the trials and tribulations that they experienced in their lives. These experiences are what help to shape our character. When we have the trials, we need to keep in perspective that we are on a road and roads get difficult, but there journey is what makes the person a better person. Here in this verse HaShem is teaching us remember our journey. For example, if you were born wealthy you might not ever know the suffering of poverty, but if you were born poor and became rich you would know the feeling of poverty still. If you are not humble you would forget about what got you the wealth, or the people that helped you out along the way. However, if you are humble then you can turn around and truly help those that are suffering around you, because you will see it, even if they do not express it. Here there is a key word which is “entire” and this key word teaches me that each experience that we go through has elements that we can learn from to improve ourselves.
Verse 7:12-15 speaks about the “Eikev” of obedience, the consequences of our actions, basically the reward. It seems that all the blessings are contained this section. Then HaShem warns us in verse 8:11-20 about becoming wealthy. HaShem does not tell us not to become wealthy, HaShem tells us to remain humble and not forget HaShem. To that end we some commandments to keep us humble. Over Pesach (Passover) we have no leaven, and the unleavened bread is referred to as the bread of affliction. On the holiday of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) we dwell in the equivalent of a hut. Many practices are instituted to help keep us in a humble state.
Another example of a humble practice is that of praying which is connected to eating. Many people have a habit of praying before eating. This is a good practice however it is not directly commanded in the scripture to do this practice. Verse 8:10 says, “You will eat and you will be satisfied, and bless HaShem, your G-d, for the good Land that He gave you.” We are taught in Judaism that it is easy for a wicked man to pray before eating a meal because he knows he is going to get to eat. It is a virtue of righteousness to pray afterwards because the mind forgets, and people are comfortable after eating, and they relax, but the righteous person remembers and prays before HaShem. Now, I am not saying that a person should not pray before a meal, by all means pray before. It is also taught that if a person does not pray before than the person is considered like a thief because all things belong to HaShem and it is a the prayer before that we recognize that HaShem gives us the food.
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning of G-d creating the world.” Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzachi) teaches us that this is important because it tells us to whom the world belongs. Here in D’varim verse 10:14 it reiterates that concept by saying, “Behold! To HaShem, your G-d are the heaven and the highest heaven, the earth and everything that is in it.” There are several other verses that testify to that fact. We are to remain humble because we are nothing but servants, and everything belongs to HaShem. Just has HaShem gives us wealth or honor, if we are not humble and obedient HaShem can take it away in a blink of an eye.
Verse 11:13-21, is the second paragraph following the Shema in the daily prayers. It stress that we need to constantly keep the commandments of HaShem and to constantly speak of them and teach them. This helps keep us humble and obedient. In reciting this every day we can remember what HaShem desires of us which is stated at in verse 10:12, “Now, O Israel, what does HaShem, your G-d, ask of you? Only to fear HaShem, your G-d, to go in all His ways and to love Him, and to serve HaShem, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul,” The word for fear in Hebrew can better be translated and revere.
Revere HaShem, Love HaShem, seek after HaShem and the consequence, the “Eikev” is the good reward that He has set aside for you. Live and be blessed.