RESULTS – Ekev – Deut. 7:12 – 11:25, by Rabbi Baruch Cohon
Moses continues his Second Discourse with a detailed statement of the moral behavior that will bring positive results. The reading is called Ekev, a word that also means “heel,” symbolizing the thought that those results should follow as the heel follows the toe.
Along the way, he also recounts the story of the Second Tablets, when he is summoned to climb a mountain and receive the Divinely engraved stones to replace the ones he shattered when he saw his people worshipping the golden calf. This time he is instructed to shelter the new tablets in a wooden ark, setting the pattern for the aron kodesh —the holy ark that holds the central place in synagogues now.
The main message of this section is what my father of blessed memory summed up as Moses’ three ideals, expressed in Chapter 10: “What does G-d ask from you? To fear the L-rd your G-d, to love Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and soul.”
Start with “fear.” The Biblical concept of fear implies reverence. Not fright but supreme respect. If we truly revere G-d we want to pattern our lives after the qualities we associate with Him. One primary attribute of Divinity is justice. The midas ha-din – the quality of justice – is expressed with great drama on Yom Kippur. Then it is associated with G-d. We can take it as a pattern. Reverence for G-d should lead to doing justice.
“Love” of G-d is actualized in our lives by love of our fellow creatures. We believe that we humans all carry the Divine image within us. That image includes midas ho-rakhamim – the quality of mercy. Therefore we are taught to treat each other with kindness, to carry over some of the respect we feel for G-d into a mutual respect dealing with each other.
And “serving” G-d with total sincerity implies both 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 can’t pray honestly unless you feel a good deal less important than the Divinity you pray to. And you can’t strive to do better and better work unless you realize that you yourself are less than perfect. Unless you have some humility.
How do we accomplish these goals? We use the tool Moses gave us at Mount Sinai. “Keep G-d’s Mitzvos,” he says. A Mitzvah is literally a commandment, and by carrying it out we earn credit on the religious value scale. Truly Mitzvah is a uniquely Jewish concept that distinguished Jewish life throughout history.
Doing a Mitzvah can help another person, whether that Mitzvah is helping start their car, or visiting them when they are in mourning, or buying a gift for their child’s birthday. It also applies to lighting Shabat candles. It fulfills a responsibility, and it does more than that. As the great commentator Rashi points out, we should keep the Mitzvos lo l’khinnom ello l’tov lokh – “not for nothing, but for your own good.” Whether humble or ambitious, those Mitzvos make us better people. It follows as the heel follows the toe.