Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Eikev.

Hearing vs Seeing

In Vaetchanan, Moses pleads that he might “see the good land.” But in Eikev, G‑d says “because you hearken to (literally: ‘hear’) these judgments.” “Seeing” describes the vision of the supernatural that G‑d confers in moments of grace. “Hearing” refers to the more distant, less lucid perception of the spiritual, to which man can aspire by his own efforts.

Seeing something is clearer and more forceful than hearing about it. Nonetheless, this force and clarity are due to what is seen rather than to the person who sees it. It is the object which is clearly defined; and the man who sees it may still be unaffected by it. But if he has made the effort to hear about something, he has already aroused his feelings and made himself sensitive to what he is about to hear.

This is true, too, of the difference between Vaetchanan and Eikev. Although the “vision” which Moses sought from G‑d was a greater revelation than the “hearkening” which the Israelites could achieve by themselves, it was less inward—it would have come to man from outside instead of mounting within him.
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The Importance of the ‘Unimportant’

Our Sages note that the word eikev can mean “heel,” and explain that this is a reference to mitzvot which a person “tramples with his heel,” i.e., those mitzvot which are not obviously important, but rather are inconspicuously embedded into the fabric of our lives. Keeping these mitzvot warrants G‑d’s bountiful blessings.

When a person observes mitzvot that are obviously important, his commitment is not necessarily that internalized. The importance of the mitzvot does not allow him to ignore them. As such, his observance is not that involving an undertaking for him. He is doing what he is expected to do.

When, however, a person observes mitzvot that can be “trampled with our heels,” he shows an extra measure of devotion. By nature, these mitzvot would be ignored; there is no natural tendency pushing him to observe them. Their observance requires him to summon up an extra measure of commitment that enables him to go beyond his natural inclination. Making this additional effort evokes an extra measure of Divine favor and brings the manifold blessings the Torah mentions.
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The Era of Redemption

Our Rabbis teach that the opening phrase of our Torah reading Vihaya eikev tishmaon — “It shall come to pass when you heed....” alludes to our present era, ikvasa demeshicha, the time when Mashiach’s approaching footsteps can be heard. When we observe the Torah and its mitzvot in ikvasa demeshicha, the commentaries explain, G‑d will keep the promises mentioned in the Torah and bring the Redemption.

Implied is that there is something unique about our observance that will precipitate the Redemption. The unique quality of our generation is hinted at by the word eikev which also means “heel” in Hebrew. When you want to enter an extremely cold swimming pool, which is the easiest limb to put in first? The feet.

Although the feet lack the sensitivity of the more refined limbs of the body, they respond more readily to our will. Similarly, although our generation may lack some of the spiritual refinement of the previous generation, like the heel, we are able to show a deeper commitment to fulfilling G‑d’s will.
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The Power of a Blessing

This week's Torah reading contains the verses: “What does G‑d, your L‑rd, ask of you? Only to fear G‑d . . . to walk in His ways and to love Him.” Our sages interpret the quote non-literally, noting that the Hebrew word מה, translated as “what,” resembles the word מאה, meaning one hundred. This is the source for the injunction for each person to recite one hundred blessings every day.

On the surface, the simple meaning of the verse and our sages’ rendering of it are worlds apart. When looking deeper, however, we can appreciate our sages are simply providing a vehicle for us to internalize and apply the charge communicated by the verse in our daily lives.

To fear and love G‑d and follow His paths are noble virtues. How can a person make these virtues actual factors in his life, and not merely ideals to which he is striving? By reciting one hundred blessings a day. All the blessings we recite are intended to make the awareness of G‑d part of our operative consciousness, and in this way spur our love and fear of Him.
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The Tzaddik’s Eternal Influence

20 Menachem Av, marks the yartzeit of the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Schneerson. Speaking to mark the occasion, the Rebbe emphasizes the power of self sacrifice and the lessons we can learn from a yartzeit: