Parsha Eikev: Standing up, moving on and fulfilling mitzvahs

Congratulations to our brother in Jewish Scouting, Fernando Brodeschi of Brazil, who has just been elected to a three-year term as a member of the World Scout Committee, the governing body of the World Organization of the Scout Movement, and also to a good friend of Jewish Scouting, Dan Ownby, who has been elected a vice-chair of the World Scout Committee.

Dear Scouts,

In parsha Eikev, Moses continues to review some of the things that happened during Israel’s wanderings in the Wilderness, including some of the miracles God performed for us and some of the errors we made along the way. He urges the Israelites to do as God has commanded and take possession of the Land. He reminds the people that, when they live in the Land and prosper from their farming and cattle-raising, they should not imagine that their success was due to their hard work, but to God’s promise to our ancestors to give us a land flowing with milk and honey. He again warns Israel not to worship idols.

Moses explains that, if the people will do as God has commanded them, they will have good rains, grass for their cattle, and grain, wine and oil for themselves. He tells the people a line we recite every time we say the Birkat HaMazon – the Grace After Meals – “You will eat and you will be satisfied.” (Deuteronomy 11:15).

Veteran hikers like us Scouts will find an interesting theme throughout this parasha. Notice that, although God has blessed the Israelites in receiving the Land and its prosperity, the people will have to work for it. Being able to work to support yourself is its own blessing. Work gives us a feeling of self-worth and dignity. We feel good about creating something, and being a partner with God in doing something good. And the idea of caring for ourselves through our work and the observance of mitzvot is represented by how we get ourselves through the day – on our feet.

The theme of standing up and moving ahead on our feet to do good work is introduced at the beginning of the parsha, and repeated at the end.

The first sentence of the parsha tells us, “And it will be because of your listening to these laws, and your observing and performing them; then God will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He promised to your forefathers.” The Torah then describes blessings we will receive – many children, good crops and large flocks of sheep. Rashi explains that the word used for “because” – eikev - has the same letters that also spell the Hebrew word for “heel” and God expects us to observe even the commandments that we would not take seriously and would trample with our heels.

The next-to-last sentence of the parsha completes a description of our taking possession of the Land of Israel, and says “Every place where the sole of your foot will tread will be yours.” Our work in fulfilling the mitzvah of living in Israel will bring good things.

You can recognize this theme in Birkat HaShachar (the Morning Blessing). In that prayer’s 14 blessings, we praise God for assistance in things we enjoy every day, such as being able to tell day from night, being Jewish and being free. When we put on our shoes – the things that allow us to set off on our daily work in comfort – we bless God, “Who has provided me my every need.”


Shabbat shalom,


© 2014 Nelson R. Block