Living Joyfully with Shaindy Plotzker
What my 10-year-old son innately understood about a simple way to combat antisemitism
Because you hearken to these laws (Deuteronomy 7:12)
The commentaries dwell on the Hebrew word eikev in this verse—an uncommon synonym for “because.” Many see a connection with the word akeiv (same spelling, different pronunciation), which means “heel.”
Rashi interprets this as an allusion to those mitzvot which a person tramples with his heels—the Torah is telling us to be equally diligent with all of G‑d’s commandments, no less with those that seem less significant to our finite minds.
Ibn Ezra and Nachmanides interpret it in the sense of “in the end” (i.e., “in the heels of,” or in the sense that the heel is at the extremity of the body)—the reward being something that follows the action. A similar interpretation is given by Ohr HaChaim, who explains that true satisfaction and fulfillment comes at the “end”—the complete fulfillment of all the mitzvot, and by Rabbeinu Bechayei, who sees it as an allusion that the reward we do receive in this world is but a lowly and marginal (the “heel”) aspect of the true worth of the mitzvot.
Baal HaTurim gives a gematriatic explanation: the word eikev is used because it has a numerical value of 172—the number of words in the Ten Commandments.
Tzemach Tzedek (the third Chabad rebbe) sees it as a reference to ikveta d’meshicha, the generation of “the heels of Moshiach” (the last generation of the exile is called “the heels of Moshiach” by our sages because: a) they are the spiritually lowest generation, due to the “descent of the generations”; b) it is the generation in which the footsteps of Moshiach can already be heard). This is the generation that will “hearken to these laws,” as Maimonides writes: “The Torah has already promised that the people of Israel will return to G‑d at the end of their exile, and will be immediately redeemed.”