Eikev is one of the “Seven [portions] of Consolation.” Since its Haftorah deals with redemption, we must accordingly say that the Torah portion does so as well.

As we find ourselves in a state of exile, redemption can be better understood by first discussing exile and its underlying causes. When we become aware of the cause of exile, we will know how to rectify it, which in turn will lead to the Redemption.

This can be compared to a physically ill person who knows the nature of his malady. He will then go to a doctor and know what to say to him. The doctor in turn will then know how to heal him. Thus, the very awareness of illness and its symptoms is already “half the cure.”

The same is true with regard to exile. Knowledge of its cause is the beginning of redemption, for knowing what brought on an exile prompts the nation to heal itself and thus attain a state of redemption.

In the portion of Eikev , Moshe reviews the Jewish people’s 40-year sojourn in the desert, a place he describes as “great and fearful, filled with snakes, fiery serpents and scorpions.”

All the above not only describes the desert, then, but also our present exile, existing as we do in the “desert of nations.” Knowledge of these details is in fact a consolation, for when we know how to extricate ourselves from the desert, and go on to do so, then the current state of exile ceases.

In describing the desert as a great desert, we come to understand the primary reason why exile among the nations is described as being in a “desert of nations.” It is because Jews are a distinct minority there, just as a desert is sparsely inhabited.

This, unfortunately, may lead the Jews to see the desert as indeed “great,” and the un-Jewishness of the environment so vast that they feel unable to withstand the culture and mores that seem to engulf them.

In truth, absolutely nothing can impede a Jew in his spiritual service of Torah and mitzvos. When a Jew acts with pride and displays his Judaism unabashedly, then “all the nations of the world behold that G‑d’s Name is upon you, and they fear you.”

But when a Jew thinks that the “desert of the nations” is “great” and that he himself is puny, this in itself serves to perpetuate a state of exile.

Thinking of the world as a “great desert” can lead to an even greater descent: A person might not only think of himself as puny in comparison to the “great desert,” but feel abject fear, thinking that the “other” has total control over him. He then becomes afraid to act like a Jew even when not in direct contact with the world, for maybe someone in that “great and fearsome desert” will become aware of his Jewish actions, even though they are performed only in the privacy of his own home.

This leads to being bitten by the “snake,” which our sages describe as having “searing venom.” In spiritual terms, this means that the person becomes totally engrossed by the heat and passions of the world around him, thereby diminishing his passion for Judaism.

This absorption leads to an encounter with the “fiery serpent” — becoming so smitten by the heat of worldly matters that the fire of Judaism is utterly extinguished. In turn, this leads to the “cold venom” of the scorpion, which renders its victims entirely “cold” to spiritual matters.

Knowing that lack of tenacity in the “great desert” leads to all these problems, a Jew is able to hasten the end of exile by standing up proudly for his Judaism, and marching on to the Redemption with the speedy arrival of our Righteous Moshiach.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. II, pp. 372-375.