Friday, August 15, 2014

Eikev 5633 First Ma'amar

Chazal[1] teach us that the entire nation of Israel has a portion in the world to come.  The world to come is the primary venue for receiving reward for the mitzvos we do in this world.  But not all mitzvos are equal.  There are difficult mitzvos which require a lot of time, energy and money to perform and then there are mitzvos which are easy to do.  

The Torah does not elaborate about the rewards for the mitzvos.  Accordingly Chazal[2] teach us that we should perform easy mitzvos with the same enthusiasm with which we perform more difficult ones.  Still, the Sfas Emes teaches that certainly we receive greater reward for performing a more difficult mitzvah than for performing an easier one.

With this in mind it is difficult to understand the Tanchuma[3] on the first pasuk in our parsha, “וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה .../And it will be, because you will heed these laws …” (Devarim 7:12)  The word, eikev/because, appears awkward.  The pasuk could have said simply,  “If you will heed these laws …” as it says in other places.  Rashi[4], addressing this question, quotes the Midrash Tanchuma that the word eikev/because, which also means heel, refers to easy mitzvos that people tread on with their heel, so to speak.  If we keep even those mitzvos that people tend to neglect, then God will give us great rewards.  As David HaMelech wrote, “גם עבדך נזהר בהם בשמרם עקב רב/When Your servant is scrupulous in them, there is also in observing them great reward.”  (Tehillim 19:12) The word eikev in this pasuk means reward and alludes to the easy mitzvos.  The Tanchuma quotes another pasuk in Tehillim as well, “מה רב טובך אשר צפנת ליראיך .../How abundant is Your goodness that You have stored away for those who fear You …” (Tehillim 31:20)  The Tanchuma asserts that this pasuk, as well, is referring to the easy mitzvos.

Why do the easy mitzvos receive such great rewards?  Certainly the more difficult a mitzvah, the greater the reward!  The clue to the answer is in the word, “ליראיך/to those who fear You”.  The fact is that when we perform mitzvos that demand our time, energy and money, it is easy for us to feel that we deserve a just reward.  After all, these mitzvos were difficult (i.e. I paid a lot of money for that esrog) and we did them!  Easy mitzvos are different.  We generally don’t do them for the reward.  They’re easy to do and so we don’t expect much of a reward anyway.  We do the easy mitzvos because we want to do God’s will.  We do them because we are in awe of God.  This purity of intent truly deserves great reward.  In the words of David HaMelech, “How abundant is Your goodness that You have stored away for those who fear You …” 

The Sfas Emes teaches us that this idea applies not only to the easy mitzvos.  It’s just more common with them.  This idea applies anytime we pursue the path of truth in our service of God.  The path of truth requires us to serve God because that is His will and not for the promised reward.  To the extent that we succeed we consequently merit God’s “abundant goodness”.

[1] Sanhedrin 90a
[2] Avos 2:1
[3] Tanchuma Eikev 1
[4] Rashi ad loc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ya'akov Avinu, immediately after
promising Hashem 10% of his future income, 28:22 (an expensive service which earns a singularly testable reward, Malachi 3:10), catches himself about to "tread on" a mitzvah kalah when departing Beis-El; so he lifts a heel of his feet
(29:1) in "truth"*, & with recovered "awe" recites Shehecheyanu on the auspicious occasion, & only then proceeds east...

*emes l'Ya'akov, Micah 7:20