by Rabbi David Kasher, Kevah’s Senior Rabbinic Educator
We begin with a word.
The word is the title of our parsha: Eikev (עקב). It is taken, following the custom, from the most prominent word in the first verse of the parsha. However, in this particular parsha, the word is prominent specifically because we are not quite sure what it means.
So here is that first verse (and I will leave the word untranslated for now):
And EIKEV you heed these laws, to guard them, and perform them, and the Lord your God will guard the covenant and the kindness that God swore to your forefathers. (Deut. 7:12)
The message is reasonably clear. We are to keep the laws. God will fulfill the promises made to our ancestors. But what is this “eikev”? If we keep the laws? Because we keep them? Take care to keep them? Perhaps – various translations may follow one or another of these options. But there are easier ways to say those things. This word is uncommon, and seems to have been chosen deliberately, to communicate a particular message. To fully understand the verse, we will have to decode the precise meaning of its leading word.
The classical commentators all attempt answers, each of which helps to lend a different nuance to the word. Rashi, always our first stop, starts us off with the following:
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