The third Torah reading in the book of Deuteronomy is called EYKEV — meaning a result. As a result of listening to the commandments and following them, we can expect to accomplish good things in our lives. If we dont listen and therefore dont carry out the Divine will, we will suffer the consequences. Cause and effect. Interestingly enough EYKEV also means heel. The imagery is unique: just as surely as the heel follows the toe, so results follow our actions.
This is the message that Moses gives the people during his farewell speeches at the end of his life.
Of course Moses was not the only leader who gave the people such messages. Just a few weeks ago in the Haftorah of Balak, we read a message from the prophet Micah: “It has been told you, man, what is good and what G-d wants from you: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your G-d.”
Personally this is a very special week for me, because I have Yortzite this week. My father of blessed memory died on Shabos Eykev. He was a rabbi and a teacher of rabbis. The last sermon I ever heard him deliver was based on both of these texts. In fact he contrasted them. Here, in effect, was his message:
Micah stresses three ideals: justice, mercy, humility. These make the character of a religious human being.
Moses also stresses three ideals. Look at Chapter 10, verse 12: “Now, Israel,” says Moses, “what does G-d ask of you? LYIROH, to fear the Lord your G-d, LAHAVAH to love Him, VLAAVOD, and to serve Him with all your heart and soul.”
The parallels are not hard to draw. The Biblical concept of “fear of G-d” implies reverence. Not fright but supreme respect. If we truly revere G-d we pattern our lives after the qualities we associate with Him. Justice is one primary attribute of Divinity, the MIDAS HA-DIN, the quality of justice that we recall with such drama on Yom Kippur. So reverence for G-d — Moses first ideal — leads to doing justice, which is Micahs first ideal as well.
Love of G-d, Moses second ideal, is actualized in our lives by love of our fellow creatures. We believe that we all carry the Divine image in us. That image includes the MIDAS HA-RAHAMIM — the quality of mercy. Therefore we are taught to treat each other with kindness. Micahs second ideal — loving mercy — is the clear result.
And serving G-d with total sincerity implies a type of attitude and a type of conduct: AVODAH is one of those Hebrew words that has two meanings — Work, and Worship. To worship G-d with sincerity requires an attitude of humility. You cannot pray honestly unless you feel a good deal less important than the Divinity you pray to. And you cant strive to do better and better work unless you feel that you yourself are less than perfect. In other words you need to have some humility. When Micah said “walk humbly with your G-d” he meant exactly that.
So Moses and Micah really gave us parallel messages, didnt they? Not quite.
My father went on to point out the difference between them.
In his very next sentence Moses says LISHMOR ES MITZVOS HASHEM. “Keep G-ds Mitzvos!” That is the tool he gave us at Mount Sinai, the tool to carry out and accomplish these ideals.
Micah said nothing about Mitzvos. For a very good reason too. Micah was addressing the whole human race: ADAM — Mankind. Moses was addressing YISROEL — the Jewish people. For us, Mitzva is the key that unlocks the door of a better life.
Mitzva — commandment — is the Jewish message. But can Moses — even speaking in G-ds name — command fear, love, worship? Of course not. All he can say is “this is what G-d wants from you.” As the Gemara Brachot puts it, “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven.” Its up to us to accomplish our Mitzvos. The message of Eykev tells us that when we do, our personal growth will follow as the heel follows the toe.
KEN YHEE RATZON — So may it be.