Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Than "Because"

While the majority of the meanings of the words in the Torah are forthright, some appear to be syntax anomalies. One excellent example is the word “eikev,” which is used in Deuteronomy 7:12 and is usually translated as “because:” “And it shall come to pass, because you listen to these ordinances, and keep, and do them, that the Lord your God shall keep the covenant and the mercy which He swore to your ancestors.”

The word eikev is previously used in the Torah when describing how, at birth, Jacob was holding onto Esau’s heel (akev). It is also the root of Jacob’s (Yaakov) name. These previous uses of the Hebrew root letters ayin-kuf-vet and their meanings have led to several fascinating interpretations for Deuteronomy 7:12 based solely on its use of the word eikev. Here are two examples:

1) The use of eikev implies that the rewards of life will come at the end of one’s life, because a heel is the end of the body:

Israel asked God: ‘When will You grant us the reward for the mitzvot that we observe?’ God replied: ‘As for the mitzvot that you observe, you eat of their fruits now, but their full reward
I shall give you in the end’ [i.e. after death]. Whence [can this be inferred]? From what we read in our text,’And it shall come to pass, because (eikev) you listen’ (Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:1).

2) When the Children of Israel fully comply with God’s ways and do complete teshuva (repentance), God will reverse the power of Esau’s descendents (generally referred to as Edom) over the Children of Israel.  

...God said: “When everything is ready [for Israel's] repentance, then I will tread with the heel of my foot on the winepress of Edom.” When will this be? “And it shall come to pass, because (eikev) you listen.” God said to Israel: “My children, do not think that I desire to treat you like a slave whose master desires to sell him at an auction for what he may fetch, but I will go on allowing hardship to come upon you until you direct your heart toward Me” (Deuteronomy Rabbah 3:2).

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