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    The mystery of Ekev

    What a strange word “Ekev” is (Deut. 7:12).

    The sense of the word is clearly “in consequence”. If you obey God’s commands, you will in consequence receive a reward from On High.

    The word has some connection with the Hebrew for a heel, but why?

    According to the Midrash it recalls the patriarch Jacob (Ya’akov), who entered the world holding on to his brother’s heel. So Ekev indicates something that follows that which precedes it.

    Rashi derives a lesson from the fact that people tend to grind seemingly important things into the ground with their heel, so a person who treats an apparently minor behest lightly loses a Heavenly reward. Such a person thinks the “minor” command is insignificant and dispensable, but God does not share this opinion.

    Nachmanides draws attention to the round shape of the heel and suggests that someone who misunderstands the value of a certain command does not necessarily push it out of the Torah but finds a roundabout reason to obey it.

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