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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Ekev

Heels and Souls

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"And it shall be – Ekev – if you will listen to all these ordinances….." So begins our Parsha this week.

Rashi focuses on the unusual word, "Ekev" – which can also mean "heel" - & comments that one should be very scrupulous in observing the "light" Mitzvot that people tend to trample upon with their heel.

Perhaps Rashi was moved to say this because in the previous Sedra we read the grandest of all the many Mitzvot in the Torah: The 10 Commandments & the Shma. Perhaps he felt people might feel a kind of "letdown" after such weighty & profound principles. So he wants to emphasize that the "little things" also count for a lot.

How right Rashi is! It is davka the seemingly insignificant things that we do in life, & in Judaism, that often mean the most. Consider the following:

- Each day, we say the Amida & then the Chazan repeats it. We can sit back, relax & simply answer, "Amen" to each bracha of his. Except, that is, for the "Modim;" that we must rise from our slumber & recite individually, because it says, "Thank you." And the act of saying those two words (just one word in Hebrew!) cannot be overestimated.

- The Gemara records that the sage Rav Yehoshua ben Levi was once walking in the market & spotted Eliyahu HaNavi. He asked him, "Who in this crowd will merit a high place in Olam Haba?" Eliyahu pointed to a particular man; Rav Yehoshua ben Levi then asked the prophet what made that man so special. "He makes other people laugh!" said Eliyahu.

- The Rabbis bid us to be friends, not enemies, with our fellow Jews. They define an "enemy" as someone you have not said "Shalom" to for three days!

- Yakov’s bracha of royalty given to Yehuda ends with the strange statement, "Milk will be between your teeth." Gemara Kedushin explains this to mean that people will see the white of his teeth – when he smiles! As king, he must be sure to smile to all his subjects & brighten their day.

In the course of our daily lives, we have innumerable opportunities to positively affect other people’s lives with the tiniest of gestures; a hello, a thank you, a joke or smile. Not much effort expended, but an awful lot of benefit.

Life itself may be no small thing, but it is made up of lots & lots of small things. So rather than be a heel, why not take that extra second & connect to another sole/soul?
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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