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Have you ever watched a baby as she works toward upward mobility? At just a few months old, she's squirming around inch by inch. Months later, she's raising herself onto her hands and knees, rocking back and forth as she gets used to the new position and height. But her arms and legs aren't very strong and she plops down every once in a while, bumping her little nose or chin. But, don't worry, she'll be up again soon to try it again.
Months pass. Tentatively, she pulls herself up to a standing position using furniture and other objects as leverage. Even more cautiously she lets go for a few seconds and smiles, as if saying, "Look, no hands!" Oops, there she goes, plopping down once more, only to stand up again a few minutes later and repeat the whole exercise.
Soon she'll be cruising along the furniture. Weeks later she'll be taking a step, unaided, from one piece of furniture to the next.
When she's much more confident, she'll try two and three steps, each time plopping down. But she'll get back up again. Then six or seven steps before plopping down. Then ten wobbly steps, then plop.
A baby's approach to learning a new skill, such as walking, is the approach Judaism demands of us when even we are learning a new mitzva-skill, whether a mitzva between oneself and G-d or the interpersonal mitzvot between one person and another.
In general, we seek out experiences which enhance personal growth when there is a feeling of dissatisfaction with our present state. This is a good sign, for it indicates vitality and an urge to rise and improve oneself.
Unlike babies, however, many of us stop trying or slack off if we "fall," i.e., the attempt was not met with immediate success.
Today, when so much of our lives are measured in nanoseconds, we half expect to be able to eradicate a bad habit or master a new mitzva instantly. And when that doesn't happen, despondency or inertia can set in.
A little voice inside says, "Why bother, you'll fall back into your old routine anyway," or "You'll fall flat on your face trying and everyone will see." The little voice will use every means to prevent us from carrying out our good intentions of self-improvement and advancing in Jewish observance. An otherwise highly successful person can be paralyzed by that little voice, certain that he will fail miserably and that others will note his failure.
The misleading voice should be ignored. For, as Chasidism explains, the attempt itself is valued and esteemed by G-d. Only people who never try never make mistakes or fall short.
The next time we have the opportunity to learn something new or are presented with an obstacle that needs to be overcome, we should remind ourselves to take "baby steps." It's not just a matter of going slowly. More importantly, it means getting back up even if you've plopped down or fallen flat on your face.
This week's portion, Eikev, begins, "It will be because (eikev) you will heed." It continues with the numerous blessings that G-d will bestow upon us when we listen to his desires. "Eikev" is an unusual word, especially here. What do we learn from the word "eikev"?
Eikev can also mean "heel" and Rashi explains that eikev refers to: "minor commandments which one [usually] tramples with his heels." Rashi's source is the Midrash, which clarifies "minor mitzvot that people aren't careful with, but cast them under their heels."
By saying that he "casts them under the heels," the Midrash seems to describe a person who doesn't ignore these mitzvot entirely, but pushes them off to the heel, i.e. to the very end.
He has an explanation as well: "First I have to make sure that the head is in order - the main mitzvot. Then come the less critical mitzvot, and only after that can I do the "heel," the minor mitzvot."
While this approach sounds logical, the Midrash tells us the blessings in our portion come from keeping the "heel" mitzvot. How do we understand that these mitzvot are super important, but at the same time seen as minor, or less important?
There are two ways to approach mitzvot. You can come from a position of understanding. In this approach, there is an order to doing the mitzvot. Then there is the position of doing what G-d wants, doing the mitzvot because G-d commanded us and because when you do a mitzva, you are connecting to the essence of G-d.
The evil inclination is clever and always comes up with a strategy. He tells you to do everything, but use your intellect, and follow the order of things. But that is because he is the evil inclination, and he doesn't want you to connect with G-d's essence.
So, the parsha and the Midrash are telling you, that you should keep the heel mitzvas, as you would keep the head mitzvas, for at the essence they are all the same. And this is why we receive the blessings if we take this approach. Because when we serve Hashem from our understanding, measured and calculated, then He grants our needs in a measured and calculated way, which is not what we want. However, when we serve G-d beyond our understanding, when we accept the yoke of Heaven and do the mitzvahs because it is His will and because we want to connect with Him, then he gives us uncalculated blessings, infinite and beyond understanding.
How do you balance between beyond understanding and order? Beyond understanding doesn't have to mean chaos, rather, when you have an opportunity to do a mitzvah, don't start to make calculations. It is all Hashem's will, so do it with your whole heart. We also should not convince ourselves of doing things that Hashem doesn't want, under some logical pretext, to have a personal gain. Hashem's will should be our goal and what we strive for.
If we act with belief and faith in G-d, the way he wants us to, He will surely bestow His infinite blessings upon us, and He will give us the ultimate blessing that we long and hope for, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
Adapted by Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz from the teachings of the Rebbe, yitzihurwitz.blogspot.com. Rabbi Hurwitz, who is battling ALS, and his wife Dina, are emissaries of the Rebbe in Temecula, Ca.
Payment A Jubilee Later
One Sunday in 2011, Rabbi Mordy Hirsch was on his way back home from a trip to Costco. His trunk was loaded up with all kinds of groceries. He noticed an elderly Jew standing near his car on the side of the road with a flat tire.
Rabbi Hirsch, director of the Chabad Mitzvah Tank Parades, explains, "I never change flat tires. I'm just not the kind of guy who gets his hands dirty. I hadn't dealt with a flat tire for at least 10 years. But interestingly, just that week I had taught the yeshiva students who work with me how to change the flat tire they got. Jack up car.... take off tire... replace with donut... drive to tire repair shop... put the repaired tire back on the car. I supervised, they did the work.
"Three days later, when I was driving the car, the tire went flat again. With no alternative, I repeated what I had taught the boys a few days earlier, but this time I did it all myself - and got my hands plenty dirty!"
Rabbi Hirsch admits that he is not the type of guy who would normally stop to help someone change a tire if it's on a busy Brooklyn road and there are hundreds of other people who can do the job. But for some reason, that Sunday with a car loaded with perishables, he did stop. "All my tools were still in the trunk from the two flats."
The elderly man, who identified himself as Dr. Hoffman, opened his trunk which was over-loaded with all kinds of seemingly random stuff. It looked to Rabbi Hirsch like it would be impossible to get to the spare, if there even was one in the car. Rabbi Hirsch recommended, "Let's take off the flat and then we'll figure it out."
So, with the tools from his car, the rabbi jacked up the car and took off the tire.
"What are you going to do now that it's off?" Dr. Hoffman asked Rabbi Hirsch.
"I know a tire store ten blocks away. If you want to give me the money, I'll be happy to drive over to the store and get you a new tire."
Rabbi Hirsch drove to the tire store and by the time he got back with the new tire there were a few more people who had stopped to help out. In no time, the new tire was on the doctor's car and everyone was ready to go on their way.
Before parting, Dr. Hoffman asked Rabbi Hirsch what does he do for a living. "I work for the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I am a shaliach (emissary of the Rebbe) with the Mitzvah Tanks," he replied. They exchanged business cards, and Rabbi Hirsch noted that Dr. Hoffman was a psychiatrist.
Rabbi Hirsch thought nothing of the encounter, nearly forgetting about it.
Little did he know that there was more to the story.
Over the next few days Rabbi Hirsch began getting missed calls from a certain unknown number. Upon seeing how persistent this mystery person was, he was happy when he was finally able to answer.
"Hello?" he heard the voice on the line, "do you remember fixing my tire a few days ago?"
"Of course!" replied Rabbi Hirsch.
"You said you worked for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, correct?"
"Well, you should know that the Rebbe sent you to change my tire!"
Caught a bit off guard, Rabbi Hirsch began speaking about the concept that "the emissary of a person is like the person."
"I am serious!" the man said, "the Rebbe himself sent you!" And the doctor began telling the following story.
As a young psychiatrist, Dr. Hoffman lived in Brooklyn, commuting daily to New Square, New York, where his practice was. He knew the route like the back of his hand, but on one particular summer day in 1957, deep in thought, he missed his exit.
Trying to find his way, he ended up on another highway altogether. As soon as he began driving on that "mistaken" highway, he saw a group of Chasidim surrounding a car on the side of the road.
Dr. Hoffman pulled over to see if he could help them. They informed him that they had a flat tire. The doctor had all of the necessary tools in his trunk to help them and got to work on the flat tire.
As he worked, they explained that they were on the way to the Catskill Mountains. They pointed out the Lubavitcher Rebbe who was immersed in a Jewish holy book. They were accompanying the Rebbe on his visit to the boys' overnight camp Gan Yisroel and the girls' overnight camp Camp Emunah.
When the tire was fixed and the Chasidim returned to the car, the Rebbe walked over to Dr. Hoffman and tried to pay him for his efforts.
"Nem ich nisht, s'iz mein Mitzvah - I won't take it, it's my Mitzva," the doctor told the Rebbe.
"A mentch arbet darf men tzolen - If a person works you must pay him," responded the Rebbe.
But Dr. Hoffman refused to take any payment.
Over 50 years had passed. Now Dr. Hoffman had gotten a flat tire. "At the time that you changed my tire, I didn't think much about it. But then when I got home, the memory of that summer day came back to me, and the Rebbe's words 'If a person works you must pay him.' On a throughway used by thousands of people daily - a corridor connecting the ultra-Orthodox communities of Borough Park and Williamsburg - who stops to change my tire? A Lubavitcher chasid from Crown Heights. And what's more, when I asked you what you do, you tell me that you work for the Lubavitcher Rebbe - you are his emissary. I couldn't help but think that the Rebbe was paying me back.
Rabbi Mendy and Leah Raskin recently arrived on the island of Cyprus to establish Chabad of Nicosia, Cyprus. They are joining the team of the Rebbe's emissaries that are already serving the Jewish community on the island in the cities of Larnaca, Limaasol, Ayia Napa and Paphos.
JRCC rabbis took a road trip using the JRCC on Wheels mobile community centre to visit Jewish Russian communities in Simcoe County, about 1 hour drive north of Toronto. 150 people of all ages joined the three BBQ's and get-togethers that took place in the cities of Barrie, Innisfil and Bradford.
16th of Menachem Av, 5732 
I have just received a telephone report about the success of yesterday's event, at which you were not only the main speaker, but also the moving spirit. I was most gratified to be informed that the affair was a great success.
Although there is no need to express thanks for doing a mitzvah [commandment], for, as our Sages of the Mishnah declare, "the reward of a mitzvah is the mitzvah itself," I nevertheless want to express my gratification at receiving the above mentioned good report about the impact of your address on an audience which included Jews of considerable potential. It is good for people of their position and standing in the community to hear a presentation of Yiddishkeit [Judaism] in its true form, undiluted and uncompromised, especially, as I am told, that this was the first breakthrough into this circle. Furthermore, I am told that your address was received not only with an open mind and without prejudice, but also had an inspiring response.
There is the well known Talmudic parable about the person who enjoyed the full benefits of a fruitful tree and said to it: "Tree, oh tree, with what should I bless you?"
Similarly, the blessing that I wish to give you in connection with the above is that in your endeavors and accomplishments you should see the fulfillment of the saying of our Sages, "He who has 100, desires 200; and having attained 200, desires 400." This is to say that your hatzlochah [success] in inspiring Jewish souls and lighting them up with the light of "Torah-Or" [the Light of the Torah] should not only go from strength to strength, but should advance in geometrical progression, as indicated in the above saying. I also trust that the contacts you make in this way will be maintained and followed up, so that they may continue to enjoy your good influence. The Zechus Harabim [merit of the multitude] will surely stand you in good stead to receive G-d's blessings in similar growing proportions, both materially and spiritually.
The present days, especially now that we have passed the 15th of Av, are particularly auspicious for the study of the Torah and for all efforts to spread and strengthen Yiddishkeit in a growing measure. I trust this will be so with you, and that the concerted efforts by all who are aware of the significance of these days, will help to reverse the causes of the Churban [destruction of the Holy Temples] and Golus [Exile] ("Because of our sins we were exiled from our land"), and hasten the arrival of our righteous Moshiach, may he come speedily in our time.
13th of Cheshvan, 5734 
With further reference to our correspondence, I wish to emphasize here another point about the urgency and speed that should propel every activity for the strengthening of Yiddishkeit in general, and Torah Chinuch [education] in particular.
In normal times, steady, albeit slow, progress might be satisfactory, and sometimes steady progress and speed may not even be compatible. However, we live in "abnormal" times, when things move with whirlwind speed, and we must not lag behind the times in our method of tackling problems in the vital area of Torah and Chinuch. Indeed, in light of the Baal Shem Tov's teaching that a person must learn from everything around him how better to fulfill his purpose in life, especially in fundamental matters, the present jet age and supersonic speed should inspire the idea of time-saving in the spiritual realm. A distance that not so very long ago took days and weeks to cover, can now be spanned in a matter of hours, and a message that took as long to communicate can now be transmitted instantly. If this could be accomplished in the physical and material world, surely the same should be true in the spiritual realm, whether in the area of personal achievement, or in the area of effecting a change in the environment. To be satisfied with less in the realm of the spirit would be like arguing to return to the era of the horse and buggy on the ground that this was satisfactory in olden days, all the more so since spiritual matters have never been subject to the limitations of time and space.
If anyone may entertain any doubt about his ability to meet a challenge which Divine Providence has thrown into his lap, suffice it to remember that G-d does not act despotically or capriciously, and most certainly provides the necessary capacity to meet the challenge, and to do so joyously, which is the way of all Divine service, as it is written, "Serve G-d with joy," and which, incidentally, is a basic tenet of the Chassidic approach to all matters.
With all good wishes, and
CHANOCH means "dedicated." Chanoch was the son of Yered and the father of Metushelach. (Genesis 5:18) He buried Adam.
CHAMITAL means "morning dew." Also spelled CHAMUTAL, she was the wife of the righteous King Yoshiyahu (Josiah) and the mother of two kings, Tzidkiyahu (Zedekia) and Yehoachaz (Jehoahaz). She was the daughter of Yirmiyahu from Livna (II Kings 23:31-37).
Rabbi Shmuel M. Butman
The first and second paragraphs after the recitation of Shema Yisrael in our daily prayers are from last week's and our present Torah portion (Eikev), respectively. Both paragraphs enjoin us to serve G-d devotedly, and command us to observe the mitzvot of tefilin, mezuza, and teaching Torah to children.
Where do these paragraphs differ, then? The first paragraph is written in the singular form, addressed to the individual. The second paragraph is written in the plural and is addressed to the community. In addition, the second paragraph also includes mention of the reward and punishment for keeping the above-mentioned and other mitzvot.
Our Sages also explain that because of the wording of the commandment to teach one's children, we understand that one refers to a teacher's obligation toward his students while the other refers to a parent's obligation.
Concerning the mitzva of giving one's children a proper Jewish education , the lesson from this week's and last week's portion is clear. Both the individual and the community are obligated to fulfill this mitzva.
Parents and teachers both share the responsibility. We can do it for altruistic reasons or we can ensure a proper Jewish education for fear of punishment or because of the reward - nachas from children, being honored at a dinner, etc. Whatever the reason, whoever the person, wherever the community, proper Jewish education for every Jewish child must be our number-one priority.
Surely this dedication to Jewish education will prepare us in an even greater manner for the imminent revelation of Moshiach.
And it shall come to pass - eikev - because you will listen to these ordinances, and keep, and do them (Deut. 7:12)
When Rabbi Menachem Mendel was a child, his grandfather, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, founder of Chabad Chasidism, tested him. He asked his grandson to explain the verse (Gen. 22), "Because - eikev - Abraham obeyed my voice." The young Menachem Mendel replied, "Our Father Abraham obeyed the command of G-d with all his limbs, even his heel - eikev." Rabbi Shneur Zalman enjoyed the response, and added, "Indeed it is so also in the verse, 'It shall come to pass, because you will listen.' The heel must also hear and obey the commandments."
Do not say to yourself, "It was my own strength and personal power that brought me all this prosperity." You must remember that it is G-d your L-rd who gives you the power to become prosperous. (Deut. 8:17-18)
The Talmud states: "The difficulty eawrning a livelihood is like the Splitting of the Red Sea." Just as the Splitting of the Sea was an unforeseen miracle, so does a person's sustenance come to him from G-d in a hidden manner.
(The Seer of Lublin)
To fear the L-rd your G-d (Deut. 10:12)
A person should be afraid of sinning, rather than afraid of being punished. The Magid of Mezeritch gave the following analogy: A father warns his son not to walk around barefoot, lest he step on a thorn. The young boy, whose wisdom is immature, thinks only about how painful it would be to remove a thorn from his foot, yet doesn't worry about the thorn itself. The father is trying to prevent the thorn from piercing his child's foot; should it happen anyway, he would welcome its removal. So too is it with sin. G-d's concern is that we not sin; any punishment, if it becomes necessary, is only part of the corrective process.
The reputation of the simple Jewish innkeeper whose blessings always came to fruition reached the ears of the Rebbe of Apta. The Rebbe, who was living in Mezibuz at the time, decided to travel to the innkeeper's village to see what he could learn from the man.
When the Rebbe met the innkeeper, he watched him for some time. Yet, he could discern nothing special about the simple Jew's behavior or mannerisms. Finally, he approached the innkeeper directly. "Tell me, what is the source of your power to bless people? How is it that your prayers are heard and listened to so readily in the heavens?" the Rebbe asked.
"I am but a simple Jew," the innkeeper began. "What you see is what I am. However, I must admit that my faith in the Almighty is unshakeable," the innkeeper answered humbly.
"Please tell me more," the Rebbe begged.
"I have always believed that whatever G-d does is for the best. Whatever comes my way I know is from G-d and so I accept it lovingly and with the understanding that even if it is seemingly bad, ultimately it is for the good.
"Even when things look really bleak, I trust in G-d and do not despair of His help. I also give charity with an open hand and go out of my way to help those who are not as fortunate as I am."
The Rebbe encouraged the innkeeper to continue, and so he did. "Let me give you an example. My house is always open to wayfarers and travelers. I try my best to treat them royally. Once, when I was busy attending to my guests, a messenger from my landlord came banging at my door.
"'I have a message for you to appear before the landlord at once.' When I explained to the messenger that I would come as soon as I finished taking care of my guests he intimated that the landlord was very angry and would easily throw me in prison if I failed to show up immediately.
"I thanked the messenger and then quickly considered my options. If I left immediately the guests would go to bed hungry as they certainly would not wait to go to sleep until I returned to feed them. Haven't we learned from our ancestor Abraham that welcoming and caring for guests is equal to or perhaps greater than greeting the Divine Presence? I had no choice but to finish taking care of the guests. When they were all fed and I had shown them to their rooms, I proceeded to the home of the landlord.
"To my surprise, the landlord greeted me very happily. We had an amiable visit and then he sent me along my merry way."
The innkeeper saw that the Rebbe of Apta was interested in hearing more, and so he continued with another amazing story. "Two years ago, I suddenly became very poor. No matter what I turned my hand to was not successful. My family, though upright Jews, did not share my unshakable faith in G-d. They begged me to try my luck somewhere else. Perhaps, they suggested, in a larger city I would be able to find a partner who would go into business with me.
"Eventually I acquiesced to their urgings though I did not relish the thought of putting my faith in flesh and blood rather than in G-d above. All my life I had trusted only in G-d and now I would trust in man? But keeping peace in one's home is also a mitzva and so I sent on my way.
"As I walked past orchards, fields and vineyards bursting with their luscious produce I began to think of the Creator. My faith in G-d became even stronger. If He could create this entire world and sustain it, certainly he could support my family and me!
"I decided then and there to ask G-d to be the partner whom I was seeking and from the depth of my heart I begged Him to accept my offer. I would give Him one half of everything I earned henceforth if he would become my new business partner. "Just then, I felt something in my pocket. I reached in and my hand withdrew a silver coin. It had not been there before as I had searched and researched all of my pockets long ago for a few copper coins with which to buy food for my family. Surely this was the answer to my prayer and G-d had agreed. I immediately returned home and purchased a supply of liquor with the coin. I sold the liquor quickly and at a nice profit. I set aside half of my profit in a special cash box for my "partner."
No one knows who my partner is but I handle His money even more carefully than I do my own. I distribute His half where I believe it can be best used." When the tavernkeeper finished his story the Rebbe of Apta rose, thanked him and left.
When the Rebbe returned to his Chasidim in Apta, he related to them everything he had heard from the tavern keeper and concluded, "Whoever has strong enough faith to become a partner with G-d and is meticulously honest in his dealings is able to perform wonders and miracles."
Our portion begins, "And it will come to pass because (eikev) you will hearken to these ordinances (Deut. 7:12). The Hebrew word "eikev" means literally "heel," and refers to the End of Days - the period right before the coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption. Our Sages counseled us to "Anticipate the footsteps of Moshiach"; at present, we can hear their faint echo and begin to appreciate Moshiach's light.