August 20th, 2022

23rd of Av 5782


Mitzvot that Man Tends to Tread with his Heel

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"This shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances, and you observe and perform them" (Devarim 7:12).

The term "Eikev" is translated as "reward" by Targum Onkelos. Rashi writes that it also means "heel" and alludes to the sort of commandments people may regard as relatively unimportant, so they tend to figuratively "tread on them with their heels." However, these mitzvot too must be observed by every person, just as he performs the bigger, more 'severe' mitzvot. A person may think nothing will happen if he comes a few minutes late to his shiur, or just once prays without a minyan. But while it is true that these are not severe prohibitions, the Torah explicitly commands us to scrupulously observe even those relatively 'minor' mitzvot a person might disregard and tread on with his heels, because they too are part of the holy Torah.

We also find the phenomena of important commandments which a person nevertheless treads on with his heel – due to habit. Since he has become accustomed to them, he doesn’t give them much thought. When we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, every person concentrates and meditates in repentance, for it is a mitzvah performed once a year and we have therefore not grown accustomed to it. But when we put on tzitzit every morning, not just are we not excited, we hardly think about what we are doing and instead wear it like any other of our clothing. This is the destructive power of routine. This is why Hashem commands us to be careful not to fall into the trap of routine and not tread on these mitzvot with our heel. We should strengthen ourselves and think about the greatness of each mitzvah we are about to perform, and in this way we will not come to underestimate even those routine mitzvot.

However, it still remains to be explained why the Torah chose to use the heel as a symbol of something a person treads on and disregards.

A possible explanation is that the heel is at the end of the foot and alludes to man's end in This World. When a person wants to repent and be careful even with those mitzvot he is accustomed to performing daily, he must contemplate his end: what will happen to him when he dies and ascends to the Heavenly Court. This thought will surely arouse him to realize the importance of each and every mitzvah, no matter how 'small' and 'ordinary'. After one hundred and twenty years he will require all those thousands of mitzvot he was given the opportunity to perform daily… Only too late he will realize how unfortunate it was that he did not always give them his due attention, but rather observed them out of habit.

This is also how Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzera zy"a, author of Pituchei Chotem, explains the adjacency of the Parshiot Eikev and Re'eh. A person who wishes to work on himself not to tread on the 'minor' mitzvot, must 'see – re'eh' the 'eikev – heel, end,' that is, the day he dies when he will long for even the smallest mitzvah. If a person thinks about this while still alive, he will remember to perform each and every mitzvah in the best way possible.

It is told that Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman's son once bought him new shoes in place of his old ones, which were very worn out. Rabbi Elchanan wore them for one day, and the next day he went back to wearing his old shoes. When the son asked what defect he had found in the new shoes, his father answered, "The new shoes you bought me have laces and it takes me a few seconds to tie them, while the old ones I can slip on quickly. Is not a pity for those seconds that could be used to study Torah? So as long as I can still wear the old shoes I will do so, and only when they are really no longer wearable will I start wearing the new shoes!"

Wonders of wonders! He was concerned about a few seconds of neglecting Torah! Because when a tzaddik puts shoes on his heels he remembers his 'end', and out of his great humility feels how much he needs those seconds of Torah study. For a tzaddik there is no act that is routine and not accompanied by thought and discretion.

נעל, shoe, comes from the term נעילה, the final prayer we recite as Yom Kippur, the awesome Day of Judgment, comes to an end. Putting on our shoes (on our heels) can be a reminder for us about the end that awaits us all, because every day a person must remember the day of death so he will be inspired to repent before he no longer has the chance. And since routine is a strong negative force, Hashem gave us this daily reminder every morning!

Every mitzvah a person does creates a good angel who stands by his side after one hundred and twenty years and advocates for him. But a person who treads on the mitzvot with his heels and performs those 'minor' mitzvot without thought or emotion, also treads on that holy angel that is created, and who knows how the angel appears after being tread on so much.

Every person observes many mitzvot each day. He gets up in the morning and washes his hands, prays, shows respect to his parents, is kind to his neighbors, greets people pleasantly, and many other mitzvot that are routine. But if instead of trampling on them he pays attention and keeps in mind that he is fulfilling them for Hashem's sake, he will merit those mitzvot accompanying him with great glory after his one hundred and twenty years in This World.

Words of the Sages

The Reward for Studying Torah with Humility

Numerous commentaries have clarified the term "eikev" which is used in the first verse and is also the name of the Parshah. "והיה עקב, This shall be the reward when you hearken to these ordinances, and you observe and perform them" (Devarim 7:12). Rabbeinu Chaim ben Atar zy"a, the holy Ohr Hachaim, offers the following explanation: "The word "eikev" alludes to the attribute [required] for the study of Torah. A person should walk with humility and lowliness, and then he will have the wisdom to listen to Torah from others. This is the meaning of "תשמעון, when you hearken," which also means "when you listen to others." Through a person making himself [lowly] like a heel, he will discover and understand the mysteries of the Torah."

Rabbi Reuven Elbaz shlit"a, head of the Ohr Hachaim yeshiva, explains these words: When a person engages in Torah, he should not study arrogantly and swallow the pages of Gemara quickly and hastily. Torah must be studied with patience and humility, step by step, heel following toe; another line and another line, another mishnah and another mishnah, until one merits completing a masechta, and then another masechta. Whoever snatches pages of Gemara casually, with pride and arrogance, out of self-importance and desire to be considered a "master of the entire Talmud," not only will he not merit becoming a talmid chacham, but he will remain an am ha'aretz (unlearned).

Do you wish to become like one of the Gedolei Hador? A little humility! It does not come in one day. The Gedolim too did not become great in one day. They labored and toiled in Torah for decades, with great devotion and self-sacrifice, hardly sleeping, sacrificing themselves for Torah; slowly ascending in level and mastering the Torah "like a king among his troops."

It is impossible to merit Torah without immersing oneself in it and laboring in it with devotion and perseverance. "Cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease" (Bereishit 8:22). There were Jews who even while occupied with earning a living, their heads were immersed in study; every free moment was utilized for studying Torah. "When you eat the labor of your hands" (Tehillim 128:2); the hands are engaged in work but the head is immersed in Torah.

Rabbi Shmuel Korkus zt"l from Marrakesh made a living from his small store. During the day he would sit in his store, and when a talmid chacham would enter, Rabbi Shmuel would immediately leave his customers and excitedly begin discussing Torah with him. Out of his great passion, he became deeply immersed in the sugya and forgot that he was standing in his store and must serve his customers...

"At the age of eleven," relates Rabbi Elbaz shlit"a, "when I immigrated to Israel alone, without my parents, I went to pick cotton at the Yachini moshav near Sderot. I remember that the members of the moshav, new immigrants from Yemen, would go out to the fields wrapped in prayer shawls, and while picking the cotton they would discuss Torah. Immediately after finishing the harvest they would return to engage in Torah – Mishnah, Gemara and Rambam."

This is how one merits Torah; through toiling in Torah with humility and self-effacement, step after step. And when a person merits, not only does he not feel pride, but on the contrary, his humility grows and intensifies. "Whoever engages in Torah study for its own sake merits many things… [The Torah] clothes him in humility" (Avot 6:1).

"[The Torah] makes him great and exalts him above all things." Besides what he achieved through his toil, "the secrets of Torah are revealed to him;" he merits the fifty gates of wisdom because he possesses the attribute of עקב תשמעון, he is modest like a heel and ready to absorb from others. This is his reward. The humble of spirit will be raised higher and higher, to everlasting and unadulterated worlds of the mysteries of the Torah.

Walking in Their Ways

Cavorting with Confidence

I once participated in a hachnasat Sefer Torah in Morocco. As we were dancing toward the beit haknesset where the Sefer Torah would be housed, I suddenly noticed a group of Jews who were wanted by the police. They had left their hiding place at great personal risk to join the hachnasat Sefer Torah.

These men sang and danced before the Sefer Torah, as if oblivious to the threat hanging over them. They accompanied it through the streets of Morocco, until it reached its destination.

I was taken aback by their brash attitude. “How do you dare be seen like this in public?” I asked. “Don’t you realize you are placing yourselves in danger?”

But they were full of self-confidence. “When we dance before the Sefer Torah, there is no threat hanging over us. Our joy with a Sefer Torah cannot prove perilous,” they answered in all innocence.

Seeing their stalwart faith, I gave them the following heartfelt blessing: “May you feel such a surge of elevation even in your hiding places. You should never have to fear the police.”

After leaving them, I reflected on their mesirut nefesh. It was indeed a moving sight to observe how people truly feel Hashem’s protection when they rejoice with the Torah, not fearing any harm.

Unfortunately, they had to continue hiding out from the police. After escorting the Sefer Torah to its new home, they returned to living underground. The protection provided by the Sefer Torah departed as soon as they finished rejoicing with it.

A Day of Delight

The Mitzvah of Adding to Shabbat

1. It is a mitzvah to add onto Shabbat from the week, meaning to abstain from forbidden acts a short time [even two minutes] before shkia (sunset). In doing so one makes this time holy as if it were Shabbat. In any case, care must be taken not to do work forbidden on Shabbat right up to sunset, so that G-d forbid one should not stumble with desecrating Shabbat.

2. It is good to begin Mincha in the beit knesset about 25 minutes before sunset, so the participants will have time to say Kabbalat Shabbat (including the last sections, "Enter, O bride," and "A psalm, a song for the Shabbat day"), before sunset. If one is short of time and will not manage, he should say aloud (or think in his heart) before sunset: "I accept upon myself the Shabbat." However, even if he does not say so explicitly, the very fact that he stops doing work a short time before sunset, is considered as observing the mitzvah of adding onto Shabbat.

3. The earliest time one can accept Shabbat is plag hamincha (about an hour and a quarter before nightfall). If at this time he says, "I accept upon myself the Shabbat" he is obligated to refrain from any forbidden acts. But before this time, his statement would be meaningless.

4. If the husband accepts Shabbat early, even in public, this does not automatically include his wife and household members, and they are allowed to continue doing work forbidden on Shabbat. Similarly, if the wife accepts Shabbat early, it has no bearing on her husband. Therefore, one who prays Arvit early may ask his family to do a certain act for him which he himself may no longer do, as long as they themselves have not yet accepted Shabbat.

5. If one comes to pray Mincha and hears "barchu" being recited by a minyan which is already praying Arvit, he should not answer the refrain. If he does, he is considered to have accepted Shabbat and can no longer pray Mincha. Even if he makes it clear that with answering "barchu" he is not accepting Shabbat, it does not help and he must pray Arvit with the minyan. He should recite Shemone Esrei twice, once for Arvit and once in place of Mincha.

But if one accepts Shabbat privately (for example he says "I accept upon myself the Shabbat), he may still pray Mincha. (This law refers to Shabbat. During the week if one hears "barchu" of Arvit before Mincha, one should answer before praying Mincha.)

6. If the public was delayed and did not have a minyan until sunset, they may pray Mincha even after sunset. See above that they have not lost the mitzvah of adding onto Shabbat as long as they refrained from work before sunset.

7. If one accepts Shabbat early and he is thirsty or hungry, he may drink or eat until nightfall. But if he accepted Shabbat publicly by answering "barchu," he should not drink until after Kiddush.

8. Since there is a doubt if the period of "bein hashmashot" (between sunset and nightfall) is considered day or already night, if one is thirsty during this time, he may drink before Kiddush. But after nightfall, even if he has not yet prayed Arvit, he should first make Kiddush. Similarly, if the wife is thirsty and finds it difficult to wait until her husband comes home from the beit haknesset, she should make Kiddush and then drink.

From the Treasury

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Observe the Purpose

"Your sin that you committed – the calf – I took and burned it in fire" (Devarim 9:21).

The holy Ohr Hachaim (Rabbi Chaim ben Atar zy"a) asks: what is the meaning of the verse "Your sin that you committed – the calf – I took and burned it in fire?"  Is it possible to burn sin?

The Torah wishes to teach us that every sin, apart from the impairment of distancing ourselves from Hashem, also contains another adverse element: as a result of his sin, the person has created a new spiritual reality of spiritual filth. This is the meaning of (Avot 4:11), "He who commits even a single transgression gains himself a single accuser [for the Day of Judgement]."

The holy sefarim write that every sin creates an angel, according to the severity of the sin, and the most severe is lashon hara. The reason is because all the angels who are created from sins are created without a mouth. They stand before Hashem and demand accountability but do not have the power to shout and accuse. Not so with sins of the tongue. Since this sin uses the mouth, it creates an angel that has a mouth, and then not only does it stand before Hashem, it also shouts and accuses and 'reminds' Hashem of all Am Yisrael's iniquities, which may lead to a terrible calamity for the Jewish people. That is why the sin of slander is equal to the three cardinal sins, among them murder.

With the sin of the Golden Calf, besides the actual sin of worshipping idols, they also brought about the creation of a destructive angel who wanted to destroy the Jewish people. And Moshe Rabbeinu, through his deeds and prayers, burned the calf and the sin, meaning to say he 'burned' the spiritual reality created in the wake of the sin.

We see that man's actions are not measured by size, but by the results. A 'small' act like slanderous speech which is merely speech, creates a destructive angel. We must therefore not consider the relative 'size' of the sin, but what emerges from it.

There are small things that are of great value, both positively and negatively. When a person is meticulous about the small things and attaches great importance to them, this causes him to transcend in other areas too, and is a demonstration of his being a servant of the King of kings. On the other hand, any sin – even the slightest – creates a negative spiritual reality which can harm him and Am Yisrael, G-d forbid. The same goes for just gazing at a forbidden sight; it is a spiritual calamity. And although it begins small and is minute, who can rectify its terrible results!?

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha

The Gaon Rabbi Avraham Chaim Adas zt"l

The glorious Adas family produced an extensive dynasty of talmidei chachamim and Gedolei Yisrael. Generation after generation, son after son, they merited the fulfillment of the verse, "'My words that I have placed in your mouth shall not be withdrawn from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring's offspring,' said Hashem, 'from this moment and forever.'"

The gaon and tzaddik Rabbi Avraham Chaim Adas zt"l was a link in the chain of this glorious dynasty. He was well-known by all the Torah giants, even meriting being referred to as "possessing a spark of Ruach Hakodesh (Divine Spirit)."

In the city of sages and writers, namely Aram Tzova, Rabbi Avraham Chaim was born to his father the gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Adas zt"l. As a young child, when he would sit among exceptional talmidei chachamim, his exalted virtues were already clearly discernable. In addition, he showed tremendous diligence and did not focus on his material needs at all. He abandoned all worldly vanities and pleasures for the sake of engaging in the holy Torah.

Rabbi Avraham's neighbor in Yerushalayim, Rabbi Raphael Meir zt"l, was considered like one of the family. He related that when he became aware of Rabbi Avraham's meager daily fare – coffee and a slice of cake for breakfast, cake and leben for lunch, and a small amount of rice and soup for dinner, he could not control himself and asked Rabbi Avraham: "My esteemed master, our Torah tells us, 'But you shall greatly beware for your souls.' With this meagre sustenance, how does Rabbeinu have strength to engage in Torah day and night?"

Rabbi Avraham replied: "You should know that I had a strong desire to meet Rabbi Yisrael the Baal Shem Tov and ask him how he achieved his lofty level. One day I actually had the merit of meeting him and asking him about this. As a reply he quoted the verse, 'But you who cling to Hashem, your G-d, you are all alive today.' Meaning, if one wishes to reach this level of cleaving to Hashem, he cannot relish his food or find pleasure in clothing; rather he must be content with fulfilling his minimum needs. Moreover, the soul in the presence of the Shechinah is like a candle in the presence of a flame. Just as the flame draws the candle, so the Shechinah draws the soul, because the soul is a spark of light from the Shechinah. Therefore I cannot relish food, and this is why I eat so little."

Rabbi Avraham also excelled in the attribute of silence. He never uttered an unnecessary word, and did not cease discussing Torah. In the beit midrash in Aleppo, Rabbi Avraham studied together with the Gaon Rabbi Yitzchak Sharim zt"l. It is told that from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, for forty nights straight, the two sat together and engaged in Torah, a holy custom they kept for several years.

Later, when Rabbi Avraham immigrated to Eretz Yisrael, he wished to settle in the holy city of Yerushalayim, in the Bucharim neighborhood. Harav Shlomo Musayev zt"l, known for both his generosity and great respect for Torah scholars, heard about this wish and immediately allocated one of his apartments to Rabbi Avraham, allowing him to live there at no charge.

Rabbi Avraham became a member of the group of Kabbalists led by the Mekubal Rabbi Shaul Duik HaKohen, the Sedah zt"l, who founded the Kabbalist Yeshiva, Rechovot Hanahar. When Rabbi Avraham would serve as chazan, and especially during the Days of Awe, hearing his pleasant voice would affect all the congregants with tremendous spiritual emotion, arousing them to yirat Shamayim and ahavat Hashem.

In his youth, it is said, a frightened Jew once burst into the beit midrash in Aleppo, loudly exclaiming that all advocates had perished and that all the people of faith whose prayers made an impression, were lost.

Rabbi Avraham, who felt the sorrow of the stranger, quietly called him aside and asked him: "What makes you talk like this?" He replied bitterly that already for a month he had been experiencing bad headaches and could not sleep properly. Rabbi Avraham immediately placed both his hands on the person's head and blessed him with the blessing of the sages, and referred to him the verse, "When you lie down you will not fear; you will lie down and your sleep will be pleasant." Indeed the very next day, this stranger approached Rabbi Avraham and told him his prayer had indeed been fulfilled and he had slept well as if nothing was ailing him.

At the same time, Rabbi Avraham reproved him for opening his mouth and saying things about Heaven. He did not let him leave until he repented, following which he was healed.

From then on, Rabbi Avraham became known among the Jews of Aleppo as a holy man whose prayers and blessings bore fruit. Many flocked to his abode with requests for salvation, and indeed many were delivered through him.

The Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, Rabbi Ezra Atia zt"l, told his talmidim that once when his wife (Rabbanit Bolisa a"h) became ill and her fever climbed dangerously high, he hurried to the home of Rabbi Avraham who calmed him and said: "Do not be afraid, my son. I promise you that with Hashem's help tomorrow her fever will drop one degree, the next day another degree, and on the third day all the fever will disappear and she will recover completely."

When speaking to Rabbi Avraham's grandson, Rabbi Ezra Atia expressed his admiration for Rabbi Avraham in the following way:

"Your grandfather was an angel! Just as the waves sometimes cast a precious pearl onto the shore, so was our generation blessed with the gift of your grandfather."


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