Living Torah by Rabbi Ari Enkin
This week’s Torah portion is Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25). Among the episodes contained within Ekev is a description of the Land the Jewish people were about to enter. Here is an excerpt:
For the Lord your God brings you into a good land…a land of streams, rivers, and waterfalls…where water flows from the valleys and the mountains…a land of wheat and barley and grapevines and fig trees and pomegranates…a land of olive-trees and honey.
This is just a sampling of the descriptions and praises on the Land of Israel. Wow! What a beautiful and fruitful land! What the Torah says about the water and waterfalls couldn’t be more precise! The waterfalls out of the mountains are simply stunning, jaw dropping, and outright spectacular. To trek the Golan Heights or the Judean desert to see this phenomenon of fresh water flowing from seemingly out of nowhere is simply an experience of a lifetime. One who hasn’t hiked such a trail does not know what a hike truly is.
Our homeland is like no other! Where else can you go skiing in the morning (again, Golan Heights), and sit on the beach in the afternoon (in nearby Tiberias)? Where else does the desert produce the promised fruit of the Bible? It is only in Israel. The Land of the Bible. The Land that He is now bringing the Jewish people into. The Land that you and I received on a silver platter. Israel.
Why? Why have we been so fortunate to receive this Land? And more importantly, how can we ensure that we continue to be worthy to rule over it?
The Torah, in this week’s portion, tells us how to ensure that the land remains ours: “Ekev!” Ekev is a very mysterious and intriguing word that our sages have grappled with for centuries in an effort to determine its proper interpretation. And the winner: “Heel”. That’s right. The word Ekev is another word for the heel of the foot. As our sages teach us, what can we do to merit the blessings of the land? Run after the mitzvot, the good deeds that most people overlook and simply trample upon with their “heels”.
EKEV: Saying “Good Morning” to the total stranger. Dropping a coin into a charity box. Helping that old lady cross the street. Opening the door for the lady pushing the baby carriage. Offering a ride to your neighbor who has no car. Inviting a family over for a meal. That’s “Ekev”. That’s the “small stuff” that most people simply “trample upon with their heel”.
It’s no coincidence that in the Torah portion in which we are told about the Land that God gives us we are also told to be careful to observe the “small mitzvot”. As you might have noticed in the examples of mitzvot mentioned above, it is usually the “small stuff” upon which a healthy and functioning society is built. In order to merit keeping the Land, we must ensure that it functions as a wholesome and caring society.
Whoever said “Don’t sweat the small stuff” clearly did not read the Torah portion of Ekev!
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!
Rabbi Ari Enkin
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