“It will be that eikev (if) you will listen to these laws... G‑d will safeguard unto you the covenant and the love that He swore to your fathers...”

-Eikev 7:12

The Torah does not use here the more common word of im (if), but eikev. This unusual expression gives rise to various interpretations by the commentators.

Our sages relate the conjunctive eikev (if or because) to the noun eikev, which means “heel,” the hindmost part of the foot and lowest part of the body. This word is used to describe the era right before Moshiach: “ikveta de’Meshicha-on the heels of Moshiach,” i.e., close to his coming. That term has two connotations which seem to conflict with one another:

Ikveta de’Meshicha suggests the last generation of the galut, thus the last stage of Jewish history of the pre-Messianic era. That generation is last not only in terms of time, but also in terms of stature-spiritually and morally the lowest and hindmost, analogous to the heel of man. On the other hand, being the last generation of the galut, it is also the one that feels and hears the footsteps of Moshiach and will experience his coming.

These two senses are related. This last generation comes after, and in the wake of, all those before it. As such, it harbors and bears the accumulation of all the virtues and spiritual energy of its predecessors-in addition to its own, however puny they may be. Thus, just as it is the heel upon which stands the whole body, including all vital organs like the heart and the brain, so it is the “heel-generation” of ikveta de’Meshicha which bears the Jewish people of all times and moves them into the Messianic redemption and era.

This is also the conjunctive meaning of eikev: “if (because) you will listen to these laws...”:

“If (because) you will listen to these laws” in the time of galut, and especially in its harshest and darkest days of ikveta de’Meshicha, “G‑d will safeguard unto you the covenant and the love that He swore to your fathers...” by having Moshiach redeem us, speedily, in our very own days!