Parashas Eikev

This week’s parashah begins (Devarim 7:12-13): “And it shall come about as a result (eikev), if you heed these laws and take care to fulfill them, that Hashem your God shall safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. He shall love you, and bless you, and multiply you.” The word eikev also means “heel,” which is at the extreme end of the body. Thus, the Midrash expounds (Devarim Rabbah 3:1):
Said the People of Israel to Hashem: “When will You give us reward for the mitzvos that we do?” Hashem replied: “Regarding the mitzvos that you do, it is [just] from their proceeds that you benefit now, but the reward for them I will give you [only] in the end (b’eikev).”
The Maggid explains this Midrash as follows. The mitzvos that we do produce wondrous effects, particularly on our own souls. But, at present, we are unaware of these effects, for Hashem purposely hides them. If we knew what our mitzvos accomplish, our motivation in doing them would be to achieve these effects – that is, to serve our own interests – whereas Hashem wants our mitzvah observance to be motivated by respect for Him and fear of Him.
Thus, at present, we do mitzvos primarily out of simple obedience to Hashem, and Hashem compensates us for this obedience. The compensation we receive is what the Midrash calls the “proceeds” of the mitzvos. In the end, however, Hashem will reveal to us what we accomplished with our mitzvos, and it is this that constitutes our main reward.
The Maggid uses the concept of simple obedience to explain a perplexing Gemara about Avraham’s putting Yitzchak forward as an offering to Hashem. We know that Hashem meant only that Yitzchak be put forward, not actually sacrificed, but initially Avraham was unaware of this intent. The Gemara states (Sanhedrin 89b): “Said Hashem to Avraham: ‘Please stand up to this test, so that people will not say that the earlier ones were of no substance.’” Why would people say such a thing? And what was different about the test of the binding of Yitzchak, so that it would refute such an argument?
The Maggid explains as follows. Our Sages teach that Avraham kept all the Torah’s mitzvos even though the Torah had not yet been given; with his extraordinary wisdom, he discerned the beneficial effects produced by the actions embodied in the mitzvos. Similarly, the first nine of Avraham’s ten tests called for Avraham to perform actions he understood. Thus, regarding his mitzvah observance and his performance in the first nine tests, it could be claimed that Avraham had acted not out of a desire to serve Hashem, but rather because he knew that a good result would ensue. But the test of binding Yitzchak was of a completely different nature; Hashem was asking Avraham to do something that made absolutely no sense and appeared totally destructive. Thus, when Avraham did what Hashem asked, he clearly did so only because he felt obliged to obey Hashem. Avraham’s obedience on this occasion showed that his conduct in the previous nine tests was also motivated by a pure desire to serve Hashem. As the Torah states (Bereishis 22:12), Hashem thus had made it known that Avraham was truly a yirei Elokim – a man imbued with the fear of God.
May we aspire to emulate Avraham’s conduct, and, in this merit, be compensated for our obedience and receive our ultimate reward for what this obedience accomplishes.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.