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Parshat Eikev (5760)
This week’s section contains paradoxes. For instance: The word “Aikev” here means “because” implying a very high thing: That because you will listen (tishm’oo) to G-d, He will reward you”.
But the word ‘Aikev’ also means the ‘heel’; the lowest level.
Similarly it talks about how the Manna satisfied everyone (The Midrash says it even contained all tastes) and in the next sentence it says the opposite; that it made everyone suffer from hunger!
Here is a story to help understand these apparent contradictions.
Once there was a Chassid of the Baal Shem Tov that was exceedingly rich and gave much charity. But, despite his good qualities, he was nevertheless often very condescending to everyone that had less wealth than he, (namely everybody around him).
One day while sitting in the shul (synagogue) in the middle of his prayers, thinking that he deserved much more than to waste his life away in this little town, suddenly a sentence caught his eye from the prayer book (right before Shmone Esre) as though it was mocking him:
“G-d casts the haughty to the earth and raises the humble high.”
“Eh!?” He thought to himself, “I’m haughty am I?! G-d will cast me down and raise up the poor people?! The charity I give is not good enough!!?”
Insane with his thoughts, he removed his Tefillin, left the Shul and began asking people in the streets, “WHO IS THE WEALTHIEST MAN YOU KNOW?” Of course everyone answered, “Oh you are Mr. Blumberg!”
But as he moved out of the Jewish section he began to hear a different story. It seems that there was a certain Bishop Thaddeus who was far wealthier, and all the non-Jews were very outspoken about it.
In a short time he found himself standing before the Bishop’s castle knocking at the huge gate. He was ushered in, the Bishop greeted him warmly, flowered him with praises and flattery and they were seated.
He promised Blumberg untold wealth and power…but first, a toast!! Of course the vodka had been spiked and after the first L’Chiam, our hero was willing to do almost anything he was told. The Bishop then produced a large contract as if from nowhere with several paragraphs already written on it.
“First” said the Bishop in his most friendly tone, “I’ll sign here that I agree to teach you how to be as rich as I. There!
Now you just sign here, see? Right here, that’s it! That you are accepting upon yourself to be a good Catholic priest, and here again, that you forfeit all your wealth to the Church if you cancel the agreement. Ahh! Wonderfull!!!”
After signing, poor Blumberg slumped in his chair and fell totally unconscious but the Bishop kept talking as though nothing had happened, “You look very tired, Mr. Blumberg we will give you a place to rest for a while and tomorrow we will begin learning.”
Late that night Blumberg woke up. His head was throbbing and his body felt heavy. “Where am I?” he moaned to himself. The moonlight that shone though the small lone window some twenty feet above him illuminated the large crosses and strange pictures that covered the walls. Slowly his memory brought him the tragic news.
“My G-d what have I done! Oh my G-d!!!” His head was throbbing worse than ever but he knew he had to escape. Silently he lifted the bed on its end and leaned it against the wall under the window. On the bed he balanced a small empty chest and on the chest he lifted one of the chairs. He managed to climb up onto the chair praying that the whole thing wouldn’t collapse and lifted himself to the window.
He stuck his head outside. It was a two-story drop, but there were a lot of bushes down there and he had no other choice, he couldn’t remain another instant in this sickeningly horrid defilement. He pulled himself up, into the open window, whispered “Shma Yisroel” closed his eyes and … he was falling! The wind was rushing too fast! …. Unconscious!
When he came to and saw he could stand up, he began to run. It was a miracle that nothing was broken. The moon illuminated the path in the forest. He didn’t look back, he was so afraid. He just ran and ran and said over and over “I’m sorry, G-d, I’m Sorry! Thank you for saving me, Thank you!!”
An hour later he reached the Baal Shem Tov’s home. It was well after midnight but the Besht was standing in the open door waiting for him. “Please! Help me I’ve sold my soul to the devil!!!” Shouted Blumberg as he fell, weeping bitterly, at the Besht’s feet.
“Now do you understand the meaning of “G-d casts down the haughty?” Softly asked the Baal Shem. Blumberg responded by weeping even louder and with a more broken heart. “Stand up my friend” continued the Besht, “Now you will see how ‘He raises the humble high’.
Look over there. What do you see?” He looked in the direction the Besht was pointing and saw that the sun was rising. “No it’s not the sunrise”, said the Besht “the sun rises from the east and you are looking to the west.
What you see is…the Bishop’s castle burning to the ground!! Together with your contract!!! You received your wealth back, but you found even a greater treasure, humility.”
With this, we can resolve the two apparently opposite meanings of Aikev;
In order to receive the high rewards spoken of in the beginning of this week ’s section one must be humble like a heel, realizing that everything we have is really a gift.
Similarly the Manna; on one hand it satisfied everyone’s hunger, but because it was miraculous it reminded those eating it that everything, including themselves, are really nothing other than a gift from G-d, thereby increasing their ‘hunger’ to be closer to The Creator.
With this we can see why our generation, is the most worthy of the coming of Moshiach NOW.
In fact our generation is called the “Heels of Moshiach” and it is also for
two seemingly opposite reasons: First, we are the lowest generation with the spiritual sensitivity of heels.Second, we are very close, on his heels so-to-say of these tremendous revelations.
But again there is no contradiction, because ONLY from the lowest and the most humble levels will come the terrific revelations in the days of Moshiach.
As it says in the Midrash that when Moshe was on Mt. Sinai G-d showed him all the future generations. But when he saw our low generation, devoid of understanding or feeling for G-d (like heels), still observing the Torah, he became weak. Moshe doubted that he himself would be able to serve G-d under such conditions.
Ours is the generation of Moshiach, we have special powers of self-sacrifice. The Rebbe said it many times. So we must prepare ourselves. We must do all we can to bring him even one instant earlier, so that immediately we will really experience ‘Aikev Tishme’oo’; even the heels of our feet will ‘hear’ the Oneness of G-d.
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