Muswell Hill Synagogue
Shabbat Tetzaveh 26/27 February 2021 5.20pm 6.24pm


   In Eikev, we continue to read Moses’ speeches to the Israelites. He reminds the people that if they maintain their covenant with G-d, then G-d will give them victory over their enemies. Moses warns the people that they shouldn’t forget G-d’s help. He reminds them of their disloyalties over the years and he tells of the death of Aaron. 

Moses also looks to the future. He fears that the people wiill settle the land, enjoy its fruits and say they owe nothing to G-d. So, he warns the people not to eat without making a blessing of thanksgiving. The parashabegins with the statement “Vehaya eikev tishme’un…” The literal translation is “as a consequence of respecting the commandments that people usually trample on with their heel, then G-d will bless youand multiply you.  So the rewards come after we’ve fulfilled G‑d’s commandments.

But G‑d’s choice of words is unusual. A more obvious expression would have been, “If (im) you keep the laws.” Why does He say “as a consequence of”(eikev) your keeping the laws?

Rashi says that the word eikev has a double meaning: (a) consequence, and (b) a heel. Hence Jacob’s name “Yaakov”,  because he was hanging on to Esav’s heel when he emerged from Rebecca’s womb. Rashi explains that the verse is alluding to the “light” commandments, the seemingly less important mitzvot which people tend to “trample with their heels.” The type of things which all too easily fall by the wayside. He isn’t talking about the “major” commandments, such as keeping kosher, or fasting on Yom Kippur. He is talking about the smaller mitzvot? Are we as careful? 

But of the 613 mitzvot, which are little mitzvot? Maybe Rashi means the lesser known mitzvot: number 270 for example “not to remove landmarks”, or number 204: “not to swear needlessly”. You will do your work through the small mitzvot, says G‑d. The work that is not impressive, the mitzvot that are like heels, will stimulate blessings.

Muswell Hill shul is great at focusing on the little causes – the homeless shelter, helping with the food bank, bar and bat mitzvah twinning with children in Ukraine, and so much more. These small causes touch the lives of people in a deep way. They can be as nourishing and impactful as the big mitzvot.. 

So, let us not forget the little things.

By Helena Miller

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