I’ll tell you my birthday resolution, if you promise not to judge me.

I resolve to make a fresh dinner twice a week.

I know that sounds too simple to be a resolution. I should be doing that already. But truth be told, it’s a struggle.

I figured that a birthday resolution is an important step on the ladder of self-development, so I considered a few options before choosing. Many options sounded way more impressive than dinner. But ultimately dinner won out because, despite my resistance, I know how much I need it.

And apparently, G‑d appreciates when we do simple things that seem so unimportant that we resist confronting them.

In the Torah reading of Eikev, G‑d describes the blessings of health and abundance that He will shower upon us in return for our observance of mitzvot:

In the future, as a consequence of (eikev) your heeding these laws and your guarding and fulfilling them, G‑d, your G‑d, will guard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your fathers. He will love you and bless you and multiply you, and He will bless the fruit of your belly and the fruit of your soil, your grain, your wine and your olive oil . . . (Deuteronomy 7:12–13)

And the blessings go on.

So the nurturing rewards come after we’ve fulfilled G‑d’s commandments.

“If you will respect the commandments that people usually trample upon with their heel, then G‑d will bless you . . .”

But G‑d’s choice of words is unusual. A more fluid expression would have been, “If (im) you keep the laws.” Why does He say “as a consequence of” (eikev) your keeping the laws?

This question is raised by the biblical commentator Rashi, who then proceeds to probe deeper. The word eikev has a double meaning: (a) consequence, and (b) a heel. Hence Jacob’s name “Yaakov”—for he was hanging on to Esau’s heel when he emerged from Rebecca’s womb.

Aha! This is the secret of eikev. Rashi interprets the Torah’s words as follows: “If you will respect the minor commandments that people usually trample upon with their heel, then G‑d will bless you . . .”

Rashi’s rendition seems to shift our literal understanding of the verse. Initially, the Torah seemed to say that we deserve G‑d’s boundless blessing at the completion of our service—when we fulfill all that He commands. But according to Rashi, it seems that G‑d asks us merely to respect the mitzvot that seem unimportant—those that people “trample upon”—and then we are deserving of His blessing!

The Torah uses the word eikev, and creates this elegant fusion of two disparate expectations. You will culminate your service through the small mitzvot, says G‑d. The work that is not impressive, the mitzvot that are like heels, will stimulate blessings.

Our sages explain that G‑d created our world because “He desires a dwelling place in the lowest realm.” Although it’s enjoyable to hang out in the higher realms—i.e., to serve G‑d with glamor—it’s the dull and ugly work that cultivates the lowest turf, dragging down the awareness of G‑d to the lowest plane and helping Him to fulfill His desire.

Throughout history there were always the elite—people who were spiritually vibrant and sensitive. Then there are the average folk, people who struggle with base desires and fragile egos.

In Moses’ generation, the people were profoundly astute—they were called “the generation of understanding” (dor de’ah). In contrast, the last generation preceding Moshiach’s arrival is referred to in the Talmud as the generation of “the heels of Moshiach(ikveta d’meshicha). If the people that witnessed the divine revelation at Sinai were analogous to the head of our national body, the last generation before Moshiach would be the very bottom of the feet.

Here’s how the Talmud (end of Tractate Sotah) describes the “generation of heels”:

In the “heels of Moshiachchutzpah (insolence) will increase and honor will dwindle . . . The governments will turn to heresy . . . The meeting-place of scholars will be used for immorality . . . The wisdom of the learned will degenerate, those who fear sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking. Youths will put old men to shame, the old will stand up against the young, a son will revile his father, a daughter will rise against her mother . . . So upon who is there to rely? Upon our Father in Heaven.

Why do the “heels” have the honor of ushering in the Era of Redemption?

What chutzpah! And—if I may say—what an accurate picture of contemporary culture!

Why do the “heels” have the honor of ushering in the era of redemption? Our ancestors were so much more respectful, perceptive and insightful.

Once again, the word eikev triggers off an uncomfortable dichotomy. The generation of “heels” is so dense and insensitive, and yet it is the perfect candidate for global transformation.

But perhaps the dichotomy lies in a misunderstanding about the messianic era. In G‑d’s “dream world,” reality as we know it will stay pretty fixed, but G‑d’s light will comfortably resonate in all parts of life, especially the lowest facets. This will culminate G‑d’s craving for a dwelling in the “lower world.”

And who better to drag spirituality into the low crevices than those people who struggle with the stiffest darkness and spiritual indifference!

In our generation, so many Jews feel alienated from Judaism, and struggle with basic commitment to observance. Simultaneously, our generation teems with unprecedented acts of sacrifice for G‑d—coming largely from those very Jews who were alienated, hit rock bottom, and then rebound with such velocity that they penetrate the thickest darkness with luminous rays of light. Yeah, a better man in another era might have laughed at the simplicity of their moral dilemmas. But only they are granted the opportunity to transform the lowest darkness, thereby creating healing for the entire world.

When you’re a heel, you’re forced to work from the bottom up. Our accomplishments appear simple, yet we’re knocking back the last frontier in the global mission to shine light into the lowest playing field.

And as low as they may be, the whole body is supported by the heels. So even Moses’ generation is banking on us to ignite the universe.1