Friday, August 3, 2018

The Heel and the Parachute

The title of this week’s parashah, Eikev, is one of the more difficult parashah names to properly translate. The word eikev connotes the word “therefore,” so the opening three words of the parashah – “v’haya eikev tish’mi’un” – can be translated as, “therefore, it shall come to pass, if you give heed” (Deuteronomy 7:12). But the word “eikev” itself shares a root with the Hebrew word for heel, as we’ve learned previously. What can we learn from this connection?

Rashi explains that those commandments that will reap the specific rewards that the Torah describes, are the ones we often crush with our heels, ones that seem insignificant. Seemingly insignificant details do matter, and can even ultimately prove to be the determining factor between success and failure.

In the technologically advanced world in which we live, we can easily understand this. An email address or a password will not work if typed incorrectly. Sometimes the difference between success and failure can be a capitalized letter that was entered as lower case. In relationships, experts conclude that small, kind and thoughtful gestures on a regular basis can make the difference between healthy and toxic interactions.

A story is told of a hotshot pilot who was dining with some friends in a fancy restaurant’s exclusive section. He regaled his friends with stories about how he had to parachute out of his jet and land behind enemy lines, only to be rescued a few days later. As he was telling the story, a stranger stood at the door listening intently. The pilot stopped and asked the man who he was. The man informed the pilot that he too served on the same Aircraft Carrier, but ranked lower than the pilot and, as such, they never associated with one another. The pilot, in a feigned attempt at politeness, asked his fellow naval veteran what task he performed on the ship. “I packed the pilots’ parachutes,” came the reply. The pilot’s face turned red as he invited his colleague to dine with him. The man, to whom he never deigned to talk, may have saved his life.

Let’s not underestimate the value of what some may consider small or insignificant.


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