As was explained in the previous parashah,1 although God did not fully grant Moses’ request that our Divine perception be characterized by the certainty associated with the sense of sight, He nevertheless did implant this level of Divine perception in our latent, subconscious minds. This subliminal perception endows us with the conviction necessary to fulfill our God-given mission: to promulgate and disseminate Divine consciousness throughout the world. At its initial, literal level, this mission focuses on the national duty to conquer the Land of Israel from the nations who personify the deification of worldly forces and antagonism to Divine awareness. On its derivative, allegorical level, this mission translates into our challenge to liberate all aspects of life from their materialistic orientation, allowing them to express their true, Divine essence.

The Divine “sight” implanted in our subliminal consciousness is, as Moses asked that it be, a Divine gift, unearned and unconditional. It is our job to actualize it, to bring it from subliminal to sentient consciousness. This is the subject of parashat Eikev.

Parashat Eikev begins, “If you will listen….” As was explained, listening (or hearing) is a lower level of perception than seeing. Indeed, the name of this parashah, Eikev, literally means “heel,” the lowest extremity of the body and perhaps its most insensitive part.2 On the other hand, hearing involves our interpretive efforts more than does seeing, since seeing is a more direct experience than hearing. True, it is possible to see without seeing attentively, i.e., without “looking,” just as it is possible to hear without hearing attentively, i.e., without “listening.” But on the whole, we are quicker to know what it is we have seen than what it is we have only heard or heard about, and we are more staunchly convinced of the truth of what we have seen than the truth of what we have merely heard. Attaining knowledge through hearing requires more effort.

The same holds true for Divine perception in the manner of “seeing” versus Divine perception in the manner of “hearing.” The advantage of attaining Divine awareness via “hearing” is that it requires us to reach deeper into our personalities, forcing us to forge a more profound relationship with God than that which is accomplished through “seeing.” “Seeing” Divinity the way Moses did is more direct, more immediate, and more overwhelming, but it is at the same time more ephemeral, more elusive. In contrast, “hearing” Divinity requires us to dig deeper, to examine and work through our entire system of belief, until we reach the very bedrock of our Divine soul, our Divine essence, which then serves as the basis of our commitment to our Divine mission in life.

This, perhaps, is why the verb “to listen,” both in Hebrew and in English, means not only “to hear with the ears” but also “to obey.” When we “hear” a truth consummately—in the very fiber of our being—we become committed to that truth.

Paradoxically, then, it is hearing, rather than the more riveting experience of seeing, that enables us to commit ourselves wholeheartedly and totally to our Divine calling. This is one reason3 why the word for “if” in the opening phrase of this parashah (“If you will listen…) literally means “heel”: the heel, as we noted, is the least sensitive limb of the body, and is thus a metaphor for raw commitment, the least emotionally engaging form of fulfilling our Divine mission.

Raw commitment and self-discipline, essential though they may be as the immutable basis of our relationship with God, are not intended, of course, to be either the entirety or quintessence of that relationship. We are bidden to progress from “hearing” to “seeing,” to manifest our subliminal surety of God’s existence that He granted us at Moses’ behest. Living life on this level of Divine awareness is a much loftier experience since, as we said, the experience of seeing overtakes our entire consciousness; all our faculties of intellect, emotion, and expression are imbued with this heightened energy.

The culmination of this process is alluded to in the following parashah, Re’eh, which opens with the words: “See, I have placed before you this day….”4 The implied promise is that if we fully and truly “hear,” as detailed in parashat Eikev, then even in the overall exilic context of “hearing,” we will be granted the ability to consciously experience the subconscious Divine sight (to “see” God’s “I”) that was implanted within us in parashat Va’etchanan. Nonetheless, it is the work we do while only “hearing” that enables our subsequent “seeing” to remain a permanent feature of our psyches, rather than the fleeting glimpse of higher reality that it is by itself.

Thus, in this parashah, Moses continues his review of Jewish history with the immediate aftermath of the Giving of the Torah (which he recounted in parashat Va’etchanan): the incident of the Golden Calf and the mechanism of return to God and reconciliation with Him—teshuvah. As we have noted,5 teshuvah is the underlying theme of the entire Book of Deuteronomy, but it receives particular emphasis in parashat Eikev, since it is the struggle to “hear” God, rather than the ecstasy of “seeing” Him, that characterizes the process of teshuvah.


The opening phrase of parashat Eikev is thus interpreted in the Midrash to refer allegorically to the messianic era.6 This is because “hearing,” aside from leading to “seeing,” also prepares us for the future messianic Redemption. As noted, “hearing” enables us to reach our own essence, and the result and reward of manifesting our Divine essence is the revelation of God’s essence that will occur after the final Redemption.7