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Posted on August 18, 2022 (5782) By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner | Series: | Level:

This week we read the parsha of Eikev. “V’ha’yah aikev tishm’une ais hamishpatim… {And it will be ‘eikev’ you will accept the judgments…}.[7:12]” The word ‘eikev’ has many different meanings which the different commentators incorporate into their explanation of the passuk {verse}.

The Targum explains ‘eikev’ to mean ‘in exchange.’ In exchange for your accepting the laws, the passuk continues and says that Hashem will maintain the covenant and kindness of which He swore to the Patriarchs.

Rashi explains the word ‘eikev’ to mean ‘heel.’ If you will accept those ‘light’ mitzvos which a person (often) tramples on with his heel…

Eikev can also mean the end, as the heel is the ‘end’ of the body. The Baal HaTurim often explains the connection between the last words of one parsha and the first words of the following parsha. Here he points out that the previous parsha, after commanding us to keep the commandments, concluded with the words: “Today to do them [7:11].” Our parsha begins: “V’hayah eikev–And it will be in the end.” Today, this world, is the place to fulfill the commandments but the reward will only be in the end, in the world to come.

Last night my wife and I visited an old neighbor of ours who had lost her husband while we were away in the States. I had mentioned them in parsha-insights a while ago but I feel it deserves to be repeated.

They were both survivors of the Holocaust. He had been married with children when the atrocities began. By the end of the war he was alone in a way that I don’t think any of us could even imagine. She was single when she was sent to Auschwitz.

My wife and I learned to be sensitive to her sensitivities. My wife once ‘snapped’ the gum she was chewing while our neighbor was visiting. She jumped and suddenly had a look of terror on her face. She, blushing, explained that the sound reminded her of the whips she had been subjected to. Another young couple in the building once brought home a dog. She took refuge in our apartment which was the closest door available. She explained that ‘Dr.’ Mengele Y”SH had wanted to know what happens when a human is bit by a dog and nothing is done to treat the wound. She was chosen as the ‘patient’ and since then had a tremendous fear of dogs.

They met after the war and married. Wanting to start a more hopeful life than Europe could offer, they were part of the ‘illegal immigration’ to Palestine. When the State was declared, life didn’t become all that much easier for them. She would often laugh, hearing about the aliyah {immigration to Israel} rights that the government granted immigrants and comparing it to what they had been faced with on their ‘aliyah’ about thirty five years earlier. We received rent subsidies on our apartment–they lived in tents. We had three years during which we could buy a car and all major appliances tax-free–they were draining swamps. The list went on and on.

Two children were born to them, a son and a daughter. The son fought in the Six Day War but died as a very young man. I never got clear if he died in the war or from an illness afterwards.

When my wife and I moved to Israel they were already older people. He worked hard in the kitchen of one of the local institutions. She would deliver the mail. Until they became too old and feeble, they were there daily, earning their honest living.

They were people who had borne so much pain and suffering and yet carried on with their lives with happiness and a sincere devotion to Hashem. I often thought that any one of the things which they had endured probably would have knocked me right out of the batter’s box. But they endured.

As we were sitting and talking last night, reminiscing about her husband, a”h, my gaze fell onto the numbers still etched on her arm. I thought to myself that we really don’t have too many people like this left. People who suffered so much only because they were Jews–and yet didn’t budge.

We are accustomed to such comforts and luxuries. One of my Rabbeim once said that when we want to describe to our children how hard it was when we were kids, we’ll have to tell them that when we wanted to change the channel of the television, we had to actually get out of our chair, walk to the television and turn the dial…

I also thought about the Rashi that I quoted above. Rashi spoke about the commandments which get trampled on–I was thinking about the people who get trampled on.

She said to us a number of times that this world doesn’t seem to have any room for her. Money, money, money. That’s all that seems to matter. That is the idolatry of today. That’s all people want–that’s all people respect. Everyone wants it but don’t want to work for it. (And that was her assessment without her ever having heard about IPO’s and internet stocks…)

Her husband of blessed memory worked hard and simply in order to earn his living. He never expected anything from anyone else and never wanted anything from anyone else. Amongst the Sages of the Talmud we find Rabi Yochanan the sandal-maker. That is how he is referred to throughout the Talmud. Productive, honest, proud. My neighbor was a potato peeler–those were the only ‘chips’ he worked with. Productive, honest, proud. Very often, those are the people who get trampled on.

Our parsha warns: “Be careful not to forget Hashem your G-d… You’ll build beautiful houses, have much livestock, amass large amounts of silver and gold… and forget Hashem.[8:11-14]”

Every person is created in the ‘form’ of Hashem. Last night I was thinking that perhaps forgetting the poor, ‘insignificant’ people is included in this warning not to forget Hashem. The truth is that we are the ones who stand to lose the most by not getting to know and learn from such incredibly stalwart people. As I was looking at the numbers on her arm I was thinking that the window of opportunity is slowly closing. May Hashem grant us the wisdom to open our eyes and our hearts.

Good Shabbos,

Yisroel Ciner

This is dedicated in the memory of my neighbor,R’ Binyamin Zev ben R’ Yosef Shaul, z”l. TNZB”H

Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).