|Table Talk: Eikev|
Snake Bites: The first time we find the word “Eikev” in the Torah is when God informs Adam, Eve, and the snake of the punishments and the consequences (yes, they are two different matters) of their sin: “He will pound your head, and you will bite his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) There is a powerful connection between the concepts of this week’s portion and the sin in the Garden. “Eikev” appears again in Abraham’s story: “”Eikev – because Abraham hearkened to My voice.”(Genesis 26:5) That “eikev” is mentioned by God to Isaac by way of explaining why God will bless and protect the son in the merit of his father. “Eikev” is used in the context of reward and merit in Psalms (19:12): “There is in the end great reward.” All this helps us understand Onkelos’ translation of “eikev” as “chalaf” – in exchange for – or as a link in a chain of events as in: “He’akov – the crooked will be made straight.” (Isaiah 40:4) We also find “Akov Haleiv” – “The heart is deceitful.” (Jeremiah 17:9) The Ramban compares all of these to Sinai: “When the word came forth from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed is He, it would go by way of the right hand of the Holy One to the left of Israel, “v’okeiv” – and it encircled – the camp of Israel. (Listen to the Podcasts: From Head to Heel and Process) It seems that the snake’s influence damages the flow from one thing to another: from head to heel and from God to us. Somehow, this portion contains hints on maintaining the flow of the process.
Seeing is Believing:
“He afflicted you and let you hunger, then He fed you the manna that you did not know.” (Deuteronomy 8:3) “We derive from this verse the Mitzvah of Shabbat Candles.” (Yalkut Shimoni) How can we derive Shabbat Candles from the Manna? “But now, our life is parched, there is nothing. We have nothing to see but manna.” (Numbers 11:6) The Manna could taste like (almost) anything they desired, but it always looked like manna. The appearance limited the people’s appreciation of the unlimited tastes. Shabbat Candles, on a practical level allow us to see the food we eat so we can better enjoy it. Perhaps there is an even deeper idea: Our ability to enjoy the “taste” of Mitzvot – Ta’amei Hamitzvot – depends on how much we are able to discern the full message and concepts of each Mitzvah. The Shabbat Candles are also meant to enhance out spiritual vision to allow us to perceive greater depths in the Mitzvot we observe.
“It was at the end of forty days and forty nights that God gave me the two stone Tablets, the Tablets of the Covenant.” (Deuteronomy 9:11) When God gave the Tablets to Moses they were Tablets of Covenant. However, we he broke them they were simply Tablets: “I grasped the two tabltes and threw them from my two hands.” (Verse 17) Moshe first held the Tablets of Covenant in one hand (Exodus 32:15) He threw the Tablets with two hands! (Exodus 32:19) The Talmud (Jerusalem Talmud Ta’anit, Chapter 4) explains that: “When Moses saw the Golden Calf, the letters engraved by God flew out of the Tablets of Covenant.” At that point they were no longer Tablets of Covenant, but simply tablets. They became heavier and Moses needed both hands to hold them. The Torah is hinting that when we experience Mitzvot as heavy burdens it is because we have lost sight of the Covenant of the Mitzvot – the relationship with God that is only possible to access and develop using His Mitzvot.