|Zeev-Hatorah-Eikev-Sometimes It’s Worth Being a Heel|
|Written by Rabbi Shmuel Brazil|
The opening passuk of the parsha promises “vehaya aikev tishmeun” when you will listen to fulfill my commandments, then “veshamar lecha es habris ve’es hachesed asher nishba la’avosecha” I will preserve the covenant and kindness that I swore to the avos. One must ask to the relationship of these two statements. Why is the fulfillment of the oath that Hashem took to preserve the bris with the avos dependent upon our fulfillment of the mitzvos? Secondly, why did the Torah use the non frequently used word “aikev” instead of “eem” meaning if?
The Medrash on the passuk “eem bechukosai teleichu” brings another passuk from Tehillim to serve as a commentary on the above. Dovid Hamelech says “chashavti derachai veashiva raglie el aidosecha. That even though I had plans to occupy do other myself with other things, nevertheless my feet shlepped me to the Beis Medrash. What Dovid was telling us here is that the avodah of a Yid is to overcome the yetzer harah until doing good deeds becomes natural and instinctual. About the Chofetz Chaim it is said that when someone would start to speak lashaon hara his auditory system would immediately shut down. It was not that he made a conscious bechira not to listen because it was forbidden, but rather that his ears were so trained and sensitive to the point that they became a spiritual filter that would not allow foreign sound waves of issur to pass through. This is the meaning of the Birkas Hashachar where we ask for “ht besorasecha” that Hashem should make our fulfillment of His Torah a habit, something that comes naturally even without thinking.
Now let us really understand this beracha. We have always been taught that habit is not a desirable trait in avodas Hashem for it is missing freshness and devotion. Hashem even reprimands us for such behavior calling it mitzvas anashim meeleemuda. If so how can we ask for “targeelainu besorasecha”?
I think we can answer this dilemma as follows. After Adam Harishon ate from the Aitz Hadaas, good and evil became very entangled and mixed up. Before eating, both of these were absolute appearing as black and white and Adam would naturally follow the good. Subsequently however, the once absolutes became a wide grey area with which Man’s must now struggle with every day of his life. However, Rav Dessler ztl explains that every Yid has within himself the power to rectify somewhat this sin of Adam. The way it is done is by taking a bechirah which once was in the realm of Aitz Hadaas and then elevating it to the state of before the chait by transforming it into instinct. Just think back in your past of certain issues with which you once struggled yet today you do or do not do it naturally without even a second thought. In essence this particular bechira you elevated from Aitz Hadass to Aitz Hachayim. We find that the opposite is also true. We can take a bechira that was once upon a time belonging to the Aitz Hachayim which we executed naturally void of any struggle and lower it into the realm of Aitz Hadaas. In the first scenario we bring tikkun to Adam’s chait while in the second scenario we bring upon ourselves the same falling. In short, the first chait relates to us in the year 5771 just as much as it related to Adam.
Serving Hashem through habit naturally is undesirable. Every mitzvah we fulfill we should try to do with utmost freshness. However habit and natural is meritorious when it concerns the tikkun of the Aitz Hadaas. That is when we take a bechira of challenge and we remove the challenge to the point where it becomes instinctive par to not eating chazar or consciously turning on a light on Shabbos. This is the meaning of “shetargeelainu” make us accustomed. Help us conquer our challenges so they become natural rather than a struggle. But of course they still must be performed with the neshamah included and not just mechanically with the body alone.
Dovid Hamelech revealed to us that He was on that madraiga and that his feet took him naturally where he was supposed to go and that was to the Beis Medrash. So too, every Yid is to required to reach this madraiga to some extent since the Medrash brings this passuk as a commentary of “eem bechukosai teilaichu” which addresses all of Klal Yisrael.
Know that every time one elevates his bechirah from Aitz Hadaas to Aitz Hachayim, he is recreating himself. The Torah commands “vaaseesem osam” and you should fulfill them. Chazal explain that since the word osam is spelled withoutht a letter vov it can be also read as atem meaning yourselves. Through the fulfillment of mitzvos one must give birth to himself. The Oshiver Rebbe ztl explained that the reason why the avos were called avos is because they rectified the chait of Aitz Hadaas, each one is his unique avodas Hashem, to the degree that it was considered as if they independently gave birth to themselves without a father. Rather Hashem looked upon them as if they were their own fathers. It is therefore incumbent upon every Yid to follow in their footsteps in this birthing process as Chazal say that every Yid must say when will my deeds attain the madraiga of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.
A bris is made when there is clarity between the two sides of a relationship. This can be seen from the word bris itself which contains the word bari which means clear. The Torah relates that the ritual of a bris was performed by cutting up an animal to be followed by both participants of the bris walking through the separated pieces of meat. The Ishbitzer Rebbi explains this ritual with the fact that the riding element that distorts the mutual commitment to closeness and loyalty in any relationship is the nefesh habehamis, the flesh and body of man. Clarity in the bonding of two individuals can only be accomplished if each partner is willing to sacrifice his flesh and selfishness for the other. That is why we find that the letters of bris also spell tavir which means to break in the Aramaic language. If one is not willing to break his body for the relationship, then the necessary clarity of loyalty in the relationship is missing.
The Avos merited the bris with Hashem because they were willing to sacrifice the cravings of their flesh for Hashem. They proved this by recreating themselves raising their bechirah from Aitz Hadaas to Aitz Hachayim.
Now let us revisit our beginning passuk and explain it in the light of the above. The Torah specifically uses the word aikev instead of eem. For aikev does not only convey the meaning of a condition but much more. Hashem desires a fulfillment of mitzvos in the realsm of “targeelainu” where our approach to mitzvos is constant upgrade to the point of taking all the mitzvos that we struggle with even though at the end we fulfill them, and transforming them into fulfilling them naturally like we find by Dovid Hamelech where his feet (aikev) brought him naturally to Hashem’s will. Hashem is asking us here to continue to elevate ourselves from the Aitz Hadaas to the Aitz Hachayim turning our challenges into habit as if it was already conquered territory and not the battlefield of to do or not to do. Therefore, we find that the letters aikev also spell keva which means fixed. For habit guarantees security and trust in the action and behavior that is to be done, contrary to an action that is done in a state where one is still struggling to make it happen.
By all of the Avos we find the this madraiga of aikev. By Avraham we find that Hashem describes his fulfillment of mitzvos in the terms “aikev asher shamah Avraham bekolee” that he was constantly living in the process of upgrading, from struggling with a mitzvah to fulfilling it without any part of his body resisting. By the shidduch of Yitzchak, Eliezer first gives Rivka a nose ring with the weight of a bekah which shares the identical letters of aikev. By this action, Eliezer was conveying to Rivka the incredible madraiga of Yitzchak that her future husband was a man of aikev, of constant growth, of fixing the Aitz Hadaas with his daily bechirahs. Yaakov contains these letters of aikev in his very name. It was the Avos who composed and instituted our daily tefillos. They imbued and incorporated into the power of Tefillah the attainability of their madraigos. Therefore it is a time where one can reach a level of aikev where his guf becomes nullified to his neshama, when clarity replaces cloudiness of mission and purpose in this world. That is why we find that three times the madraiga of “aikev” is gematriah tefillah 516. We also find in halacha that the steps taken before and after the Shemoneh Esrai relate to the heel specifically because the tefillah relates to this madraiga of aikev. The aseres hadibros also contains 172 words gematriah aikev to teach us the same lesson. The entireTorah is about raising yourself from the opaqueness of the Aitz Hadaas and reaching the clarity of bris of the Aitz Hachaayim. If you recreate yourselves by not remaining complacent in fulfilling the mitzvos in the state of constant struggle, then you have connected to the madraigah of the avos, and Hashem will therefore preserve for you that bris that He made with the Avos who also recreated themselves by fixing the Aitz Hadaas.
Now we can shed light on the story the gemarrah brings Berachos 33 that in a certain town there was a dangerous scorpion that was killing people. They showed Rav Chaninah Ben Dosa its habitat and when he stuck his heel into its abode it bit him and the scorpion miraculously died. Rav Chaniana was an individual who lived an aikev life of mitzvos. He elevated all his struggles into habit by conquering them and uprooting them from the Aitz Hadaas. His elevating of all his challenges into the state of habit was tantamount to paralleling the supernatural (conquering the struggle) to natural. By Rav Chanina miracles and nature were on the identical plane – Hashem who said that oil will burn can also say that vinegar should have the same quality. When one fixes the Aitz Hadaas daily, nature and above nature are the same.
Gut ShabbosRav Brazil