The Talmud relates that Rabbi Banaah caught a glimpse of Adam's heels. "They shone like two suns," he reported.

The Torah reading of Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25) opens with Moses' words to the children of Israel, "And it shall come to pass, because you will hearken to these laws..."

The commentaries dwell on the uncommon usage here of the Hebrew word eikev ("because"). A number of them see an allusion to the word akeiv, "heel" (in Hebrew, both words have the same spelling). What does it mean that we hearken to the laws of G‑d with our heels?

Say the Chassidic masters: It's not enough that the mind understands. It's not even enough that the heart feels and the hands do. The entire person must be permeated by the mitzvah. To the point that the very heels hear and hearken.

The head is the acknowledged leader of the body. But when a person is required to enter a tub of scalding water, the head will often hesitate. It is the heels who plunge in and lead the way.

Rabbi Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch used this metaphor to illustrate the special qualities of the "simple" Jew. The head may be smarter and more sophisticated, but the seemingly coarse and simple heel possesses a greater measure of mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice). The simple Jew may not be as learned or accomplished as the scholarly Jew, but his faith and commitment nevertheless — perhaps, therefore — exceed that of his more elevated brethren.

The Kabbalists refer to our generation as "the heels of moshiach."

An axiom of history is "the descent of the generations." Adam was "the handiwork of G‑d." Moses spoke with G‑d "face to face." The later prophets heard Him in dreams and fuzzy visions. The most that the sages of the Talmud could hope for was a visit from Elijah the Prophet. Later sages are described as possessing "divine inspiration." And we? We are the heels, lowest and least spiritual generation of the body of humanity.

But also this: We are the "heels of moshiach" because we are the last generation of the Exile, the last generation of an age in which G‑d hides from His world, and the first generation of Redemption, of a world that will reflect the goodness and perfection of its Creator. We are the "heels of moshiach" because, if we listen closely, we can hear the footsteps of the approaching redeemer, the sound of his heels striking our earth.

And also this: Despite — and because of — our lowliness, we are the heels of history, the base upon which all stands.

The Talmud (Bava Batra 58a) describes how Rabbi Banaah entered the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron where Adam and Eve are interred. He saw the first man's heels, which "shone like two suns."