1. This week’s portion begins, “As a result of your listening to these laws... G‑d will safeguard the covenant and the kindness...,” describing the reward which G‑d will give the Jews for their service of Torah and mitzvos. Indeed, some of the commentaries explain that the very meaning of the word of the word eikev is connected with the concept of reward or alternatively, the “end of days,” the era when the Jews will receive the full measure of this reward.

This touches on a fundamental concept. A just reward has to be commensurate — indeed, it should exceed — the value of the service performed to earn that reward. Thus, we see that an employer pays his workers a wage which does more than allow them to meet their immediate needs. If so, a fundamental question can be raised: Since, as Pirkei Avos teaches, “One moment of teshuvah and good deeds in this world surpasses the entire life of the World to Come,” how is it possible to give a just reward for the fulfillment of mitzvos? The performance of the mitzvos represents the fulfillment of G‑d’s will, something which brings Him pleasure as it were. Accordingly, how is it possible for anything whether material (i.e., the material benefits promised by the Torah) or (the reward of the World to Come) to be an adequate reward for such service.

Pirkei Avos also provides us with an answer to this question, teaching, “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah.” In different Chassidic texts, this is interpreted to mean that in the Messianic Age, the pleasure which we bring G‑d through the fulfillment of the mitzvos will be revealed to us, this being the true reward for the mitzvos.

This interpretation, however, is insufficient because: a) The revelation of this Divine pleasure cannot be compared to the pleasure itself as implied by the statement, “One moment of teshuvah and good deeds in this world surpasses the entire life of the World to Come.” b) There is not even the slightest allusion to such a concept in Torah. On the contrary, in many places in the Torah (including this week’s portion), it appears that the reward for the performance of the mitzvos is expressed in different material benefits.

Instead, the above Mishnah should be interpreted to mean that the mitzvah itself, the bond established with G‑d, is the true reward for the mitzvah. Indeed, nothing else can serve as an adequate reward.

In addition, this teaching also implies that the reward for the mitzvah is the opportunity to perform another mitzvah — and many other mitzvos1 — as our Sages teach: “One mitzvah leads to another.” The latter dimension also relates to the material benefits which the Torah promises for the fulfillment of mitzvos. The intent of these material benefits is to allow the Jews to be free to perform many other mitzvos. To quote the Rambam’s statements in Hilchos Teshuvah:

[G‑d] will remove all the obstacles which prevent us from fulfilling [the Torah], for example, sickness, war, famine, and the like. Similarly, He will grant us all the good which will reinforce our performance of the Torah, e.g., plenty, peace, an abundance of silver and gold in order that we not spend all our days in matters required by the body, but rather, sit unburdened and [thus, have the opportunity to] study wisdom and perform mitzvos...

This passage clearly emphasizes that the material benefits promised by the Torah are not ends in their own right (for there is no way that these physical benefits could serve as an adequate reward for the mitzvos), but rather means to allow a Jew to intensify his performance of Torah and mitzvos.

A similar concept applies regarding the reward to be realized in the Messianic Era. Then, we will appreciate the ultimate of material good: “There will no famine or war, envy or competition for good will flow in abundance and all delights will be [as common] as dust.” Nevertheless:

The Sages did not yearn for the Messianic Era in order to have dominion over the entire world, to rule over the gentiles,... to eat, drink, and celebrate... Rather, [they desired] to be free [to involve themselves] in Torah and wisdom without any disturbances or pressures.

Then, we will see the ultimate expression of “The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah.” The fulfillment of the mitzvos in the present age will bring about the Messianic Era when we be able to fulfill the mitzvos in the fullest and most complete manner.

2. The above explanations clarify another concept. Rashi offers another interpretation for the word eikev, noting that it also means “heel” and thus explaining that it refers to the seemingly insignificant mitzvos, “the mitzvos which a person crushes with his heel.” On the surface, it is difficult to reconcile this interpretation — which refers to a low level, a person who has to worry about crushing mitzvos with his heel — and the interpretation mentioned above which connects the verse to the highest level of the fulfillment of mitzvos. Nevertheless, since both of these interpretations are associated with the same verse, there is obviously a connection between them.

This difficulty can be resolved by considering the Mishnah from Pirkei Avos quoted above in its entirety: “Run to perform an easy mitzvah... for one mitzvah leads to another... for the reward for a mitzvah is the mitzvah.” Here, also the Mishnah mentions “easy mitzvos” (comparable to “the mitzvos which you crush with your heel.”

This also relates to another teaching from Pirkei Avos: “Be as careful in [the performance of] an light mitzvah as of a major one...” and another teaching of our Sages: “Do not... weigh the mitzvos of the Torah, the light against the severe.” These teachings imply that there are differences between mitzvos, some being “light” and some, “severe.” Nevertheless, in regard to the performance of the mitzvos, these factors should not be taken into consideration and one should commit himself to the performance of all mitzvos equally without distinction.

This teaching raises a question: Since the Torah itself states that one mitzvah is more severe than another, why shouldn’t a Jew try to discover which are the more severe and more important mitzvos? G‑d granted us intellect. Seemingly, the most complete manner in which that potential can be used is to think about the mitzvos and discover which are most important for us.

The resolution of this question is based on the principle that all mitzvos — light or severe — are expressions of G‑d’s essential will and He and His will are one. This establishes a fundamental equality between all the mitzvos. On the contrary, from this perspective, there is an advantage to the performance of the “light” mitzvos for through their fulfillment, one expresses the all-encompassing nature of his commitment to Torah and mitzvos.

Nevertheless, even this does not represent the ultimate level of service which is expressed in fulfilling mitzvos because of Kabbalas Ol (acceptance of G‑d’s yoke). When a person fulfills the “light” mitzvos because he appreciates how they are more appropriate vehicles to express his total commitment to G‑d than the “severe” mitzvos, he is not accepting a yoke, transcending his personal desires. On the contrary, he is following his own understanding, expressing the highest level of service which he can appreciate.

True Kabbalas Ol implies serving G‑d without any intellectual rationale, fulfilling His will without a “because.” To use a similar concept as an example. Chassidic thought explains the advantage of praying “with the intention of a child,” [i.e., just as a child directs his prayers to G‑d’s essence and not to any of His revealed qualities, similarly, an adult, even when he appreciates the different levels of G‑dliness, should direct his prayers to G‑d’s essence alone.] When does one attain this level of prayer? Not when one consciously chooses to pray in this manner, but when one does so naturally, as the child does, without thinking about the matter.

Thus, the true expression of Kabbalas Ol does not involve negation of the intellect, but rather transcendence of it. A Jew must use his mind and appreciate the differences between “a severe mitzvah” and a “light” one — and accordingly, understand how Torah itself may allow him to postpone performance of a “light” mitzvah temporarily. He should, nevertheless, dedicate himself to the performance of these mitzvos, not because he understands intellectually that he should do so, but because of a single intent, a desire to fulfill G‑d’s will.

This is a true expression of mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice), giving over one’s will and mind to G‑d. The person uses his mind and understands the differences between the different mitzvos. However, he commits himself to the performance of all mitzvos equally as a natural expression of Kabbalas Ol. In this manner, every aspect of a person’s being — his mind and his will, for he actively uses both — become united with G‑d.

On this basis, we can understand why fulfillment of the light mitzvos, “the mitzvos which a person tramples with his feet,” is connected with “the reward of a mitzvah,” “the mitzvah itself.” The ultimate connection with G‑d that is established through the performance of the mitzvos — and will be realized in the Messianic Era — is expressed in the fulfillment of these mitzvos in the manner described above; i.e., that a person fulfills them with a complete and natural approach of Kabbalas Ol and, simultaneously, uses his intellect to understand it.

In this manner, we can understand the interrelation of the three clauses of the Mishnah. From “running to perform an easy mitzvah,” “one mitzvah leads to another,” i.e., one comes to a complete level of performance of all the mitzvos, and allows for the appreciation of how “the reward for a mitzvah is the mitzvah,” including the ultimate expression of that concept in the Messianic Age.

The above concepts should be reflected in our relations with our fellow men. We should “walk in G‑d’s ways.” Thus, just as He gives us a full and just reward for the fulfillment of mitzvos, so, too, if we receive a favor, whether spiritual or material from a colleague, we should offer him recompense, not just merely to discharge our obligation, but to satisfy him fully for his efforts. In particular, when a colleague enables one to perform a mitzvah, we should repay him by giving him the opportunity to perform more mitzvos, with one mitzvah leading to another.

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3. This Shabbos precedes the yahrzeit of the Rebbe’s father, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok, on the 20th of Av. The connection between the two is manifest in the fact that the practices associated with the observance of the yahrzeit begin on the preceding Shabbos.

On a person’s yahrzeit, all the service which he performed throughout his life is revealed. In regard to Rav Levi Yitzchok, he was the paradigm of a Rav2 and a Jewish leader. Even after he was sent into exile, he continued his involvement in Torah, in both its legal aspects and its mystic secrets in a manner of mesirus nefesh — total self-sacrifice. The fulfillment of this service in exile represents a very high rung of service3 for exile is an extremely harsh punishment, possessing a certain dimension which is more severe than death. Note the Sefer HaChinuch which elaborates on the pain suffered by a person who is forced to leave his home and dwell among strangers.

The severity of exile is also reflected in our Sages’ statement that Chanania, Mishael, and Azariah4 who were tossed into (and saved from) the burning furnace because of their refusal to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, would have worshiped that image had they been tortured. Despite the difficulties of exile, Rav Levi Yitzchok continued his service of spreading Torah with mesirus nefesh.

His names, Levi and Yitzchok, also reflect the qualities of bittul and mesirus nefesh. Levi refers to the establishment of a complete connection with G‑d for the name Levi is associated with the concept of “attachment.” Indeed, Leah gave him this name out of the prayer that, “This time, my man (i.e., G‑d) will become attached to me.”

Yitzchok was “a perfect offering” and he was the first to be circumcised at eight days old, establishing a covenant with G‑d in his flesh [in a manner which transcends all intellectual limits].

It is also significant that the two names Levi and Yitzchok are connected with the future. As mentioned, when Leah named Levi she exclaimed, “my man will become attached to me” and when Sarah named Yitzchok she declared, “All that hear will rejoice with me.” Similarly, our Sages explained that, of all the Patriarchs, Yitzchok is most strongly associated with the Messianic redemption.

[The connection with the Messianic Era is also reflected in Rav Levi Yitzchak’s lineage. Rav Levi Yitzchok was the seventh generation from the Alter Rebbe, who was the seventh generation from the Maharal of Prague, who traced his lineage to King David.]5

The following lesson can be derived from the above:6 To bring the Messianic redemption, a Jew must be involved in the service of self-refinement and he must also work to influence his colleagues. Rav Levi Yitzchok was a Torah scholar who recorded his teachings for posterity.7 He was also a Rav and a leader, heading a major Jewish community. Similarly, Rav Levi Yitzchok also had an effect on the gentiles who lived around him. They saw the Hashgachah Protis in his life and this strengthened their faith in the Creator of the world.

These two qualities are reflected in the names Levi and Yitzchok. Levi refers to the service of self-refinement, whose ultimate level is complete attachment with G‑d, “Now, my man will be attached to me.”

Yitzchok relates to the service with others and an individual’s service of spreading happiness among them as the Matriarch Sarah declared when naming him, “All that hear (i.e., even someone who inadvertently hears) will rejoice with me.” Thus, Yitzchok reflects the spreading of unbounded joy.

The qualities reflected by the names Levi and Yitzchok are relevant to every Jew. In regard to Levi, this can be seen in the Rambam’s statements, “Not only the tribe of Levi, but anyone who, out of a spirit of generosity...,” i.e., Levi’s qualities are models that can be emulated by every Jew. Similarly, Yitzchok as one of the Patriarchs endowed the entire Jewish people with his spiritual heritage.

This service, particularly when carried it in an increased manner as is appropriate after the Fifteenth of Av, will bring about “the reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah” in the ultimate sense, the service in the Messianic Age.

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4. Concerning the giving of the Torah, it is written that the word Anochi is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning “I wrote down and gave over My soul,” i.e., G‑d invested Himself in the Torah. Since “the righteous resemble their Creator,” the same applies to the texts which they write. A tzaddik puts himself into the Torah which he teaches, his words being “words that emanate from the heart.” Thus, when they are studied by others, they become “words which enter the heart.” {The Rebbe Shlita proceeded to explain a selection from Rav Levi Yitzchak’s teachings. At the conclusion of this sichah, the Rebbe rose to his feet, dancing in his place for several minutes.}

5. Afterwards, the Rebbe Shlita mentioned the gathering of Shluchim to be held in Eretz Yisrael on the 19th of Av. He explained that the present date, the 18th (חי) of Av, represents “the life of Av.” The 19th is numerically equivalent to Chavah (חוה)), “the mother of all life” and the conclusion of the gathering will be held on the 20th of Av which relates to the level of Kesser. The gathering is being held in Ramat Yishai a name which is associated with Mashiach, Yishai being David’s father. Ramah — “uplifted” — means that Mashiach will come in an exalted manner.