By Rabbi Aron Tendler
On The Heel Of Success
Rashi begins his commentary of this week's Parsha by referencing the Medresh
Tanchuma on the word "Eikev - as a result of." The word Eikev is an unusual
word for the Torah to use. The word "Im - When" would have been more common
The Tanchuma associates the word Eikev with the Hebrew word for "heel -
Eikev." (Eg. The name Yakov - "and his hand grasped the heel of his brother
Eisav." Ber.25:26) The Tanchuma explains, "The Torah is referring to those
easy Mitzvos that we tend to trample beneath our heel; meaning, those Mitzvos
that we take for granted or consider less important.
The Ohr Hachayim begins his commentary on this week's Parsha with two
1. Why does the Torah use the futuristic construct "V'Haya - "And it will be
as a result of your adhering to these statutes…?" The Torah could have just
as well left out the word V'Haya" and started with the second word, "Eikev -
As a result of..." The verse would have then read, " As a result of your
adhering to these statutes…"
2. Why does the Torah use the word "Eikev?" The Torah could have left out
the word Eikev and simply said, "Im Tishmiun - When you will adhere..."
The Ohr Hachayim references the Medresh that explains the word "V'Haya" to
denote Simcha - joy and contentment.
While attending a wedding this past week, a friend mentioned the above Ohr
Hachayim, as well as the obvious association between the word "V'Haya" and
the four-lettered name of G-d. Both words utilize the same letters of the
Hebrew Aleph - Bait. My friend wanted to know how I understood the
association of the word V'Haya with G-d's name; the Ohr Hachayim's
association of the word V'Haya with Simcha - joy; and Rashi's classic
interpretation of the word Eikev as referring to "the easy Mitzvos."
The Ohr Hachayim goes on to answer his two questions and to offer other
insights beside the classic explanation of the Tanchuma. The main thrust of
his explanation is that the word Eikev means "at the end," and that joy and
contentment can only be realized when a person is committed to doing all the
Mitzvos. "The outcome of a life devoted to Torah and Mitzvos will be Simcha -
joy and contentmnt." That is why the Torah used the futuristic construct of
"V'Haya - And it will be," and the word "Eikev - as a result of."
Considering my friends request I suggested the following possibility for
understanding the various associations.
The word "V'Haya - And it will be" uses the same letters as the name of G-d.
That specific name identifies G-d as the "G-d of Mercy," or the "Personal
G-d. " (In contrast to the G-d of Justice or the G-d of Nature.) The G-d of
Mercy deals with human failings. Such a G-d must utilize the element of time
in His deliberations and judgments. Such a G-d must give His free-willed
humans the time to make mistakes (sin) and time to learn from their mistakes
The G-d of Mercy, the G-d Who is intimately involved in every aspect of our
lives, lovingly gave us a comprehensive life style that addresses every
aspect of the human condition. It is not for us to decide which of those
commandments are more or less important. G-d gave them all to us to enrich
our lives and further our awareness of Him.
Imagine a seriously ill patient deciding how much medication to take. "Even
though the doctor said I should take both pills I feel like taking only one
of them." Imagine that same patient deciding that he would take the
medication but stop drinking fluids. Imagine the heart patient deciding that
his medications are more important than the prescribed exercises or stopping
to smoke. Which is more important, medicine or water, medicine or exercise,
exercise or stopping to smoke?
As foolish a deliberation as that is for an individual who wishes to be
healthy and remain healthy, it is equally foolish for the person who wishes
to be spiritually healthy. The individual who desires to be healthy follows
the entire regiment of prescribed therapies. Certain elements of the
prescription address the illness and others build strength and boost
immunities. Some are preventive and others therapeutic. Both are essential
for health and healing. The same is true with the Mitzvos.
Every weekday we recite Psalm 100. "Serve G-d with Simcha - contentment and
joy" Service presumes an attitude of subjugation and humility. We serve G-d.
We do as we are told and accept all the commandments as equally important to
each other. We do not presume to evaluate the importance of one Mitzvah over
another Mitzvah. We do not presume to choose seemingly easy commandments
over seemingly difficult commandments.
Simcha - joy and contentment is not a passing attitude or a circumstantially
motivated feeling. Simcha is the natural outcome of a way of life and is
sustained and nurtured by that way of life. Simcha assumes a sense of
importance and accomplishment. Simcha assumes a perspective that frames all
of life's offerings, good and bad, joyous and sorrowful, in service and
purpose. Simcha results when we are fully committed to "serving G-d."
Most of us have been trained to be goal oriented. This is both good and bad.
On the one hand, it motivates us to finish the assignments and projects that
we undertake. On the other hand, our sense of accomplishment is first
realized at the end of the assignment or project, not during the ongoing
process that leads to completion.
Upon successful completion there is a deserved sense of elation and self
worth. Upon completion we permit ourselves to accept recompense in one form
or another. However, not every job ends in success. More so, every success
raises the level of expectation for the next success. Few of us, if any, can
rest on our laurels. "What should I do next? What will be my next assignment?
Will I be successful or not?" If we merit contiguous successes we are
"B'Simcha - joyous and content." If not, we loose confidence in ourselves,
become embittered, angry, depressed, despondent and desperate.
The beauty of living a life of "service to G-d" is that it offers a
prescription for contiguous success, sense of accomplishment,
self-confidence, and Simcha. There is never a moment when one must wonder
what to do next, or what I am worth. There is always another Mitzvah to do.
There is always some form of Chesed to effect. There is always more Torah to
learn or teach. The opportunities do not have to be "big." Small
opportunities for serving G-d are as much a service to G-d as the big
The Ohr Hachayim quoted the Medresh that associated the word V'Haya with
Simcha. The word V'Haya is the same letters as the name of the G-d of Mercy
who gifted us with a lifetime of Mitzvos. Rashi explains the word Eikev as
referring to the Mitzvos that we tend to ignore or take for granted.
The overall message is clear. The G-d of Mercy, the Personal G-d, mandates us
to serve Him with an attitude of Simcha. Simcha is the byproduct of
embracing all aspects of that service, both the seemingly important and the
seemingly unimportant. Such devotion to service guarantees clarity of purpose
and a contiguous sense of self worth and accomplishment. Such a service
guarantees a life of Simcha.
Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA.