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This week’s portion opens with the words, “And it will be when you heed these ordinances” (Deut. 7:12). The subsequent verses proceed to relate all of the blessings that G-d will grant the Jewish people for upholding the commandments. The term “eikev,” which our portion is named after, is typically translated as “when” or “because.” However, the Jewish sages learn other concepts from the fact that “eikev” also means “heel.”

Rashi comments that G-d promises to shower all of these blessings upon the Jewish people, “If you will heed the minor commandments which one [usually] tramples with his heels [i.e., which a person treats as being of minor importance].” Let’s use a well-known example to elaborate.

In the original “Karate Kid,” a young man approaches a karate master, Mr. Miyagi, to learn the martial art. Mr. Miyagi instructs the young man to wax his car. He demonstrates how with one motion he puts the wax on, and with another, he takes the wax off. After repeating this for days, the young man finally snaps and shouts at Mr. Miyagi, “I came here to learn karate not to wax your car!”

Mr. Miyagi approaches the young man and then proceeds to physically attack him. Using the same wax-on and wax-off motion, the young man instinctively is able to defend himself from all the strikes. What seemed like a simple, minor, and mundane exercise was in truth a deeply profound training technique.

In like manner, all of the commandments of the Torah – even those that seem to be rather insignificant or of minor importance – are informed by deep wisdom. There is a meaning behind every detail and every action. G-d encourages us to realize that nothing is trivial. The commandments and customs are meant to facilitate greater awareness and presence. The opening of our Torah portion suggests to us, “Do you know when blessings will come to you? When you don’t differentiate between major and minor actions; when you realize every detail is major because all of it is an exercise in cultivating higher awareness and consciousness.”

We can go one step further. We aspire for the Messianic Era; an era defined by world peace and a higher collective consciousness. Our sages call the period that precedes and ushers in this worldwide awakening, the “heels of Messiah.” “Do you know what will bring world peace?” asked the sages. “The answer is eikev. When we don’t differentiate between major and minor but rather realize everything is meaningful and should be treated as such.” When we live in this way, the world will evolve as we know it. May it be speedily!

Shabbat Shalom

– Rabbi Liad Braude

Parshat eikev