The Rebbe says:
1. The first words of this week’s Torah portion are, “And it shall be, because you listened to these ordinances of Hashem (G-d)… He will love you, bless you and multiply you…”.
Rashi (an acronym for Reb Shlomo Yitzchaki) points out that the Hebrew word “Eikev” which is simply translated in this verse as “because”, also means “heel”. Consequently, explains Rashi, the verse is alluding to the sort of Mitzvos (commandments) that people regard as relatively unimportant so they tend to “trample on them with their heels”. Thus, the Torah is assuring the Jewish people that if they are careful to observe even these neglected commandments, they can be certain that Hashem will reward them with His kindness.
The source of Rashi’s explanation is from the Midrash Tanchuma who says this in a slightly different way; “When the Torah says, ‘Eikev’”, says the Midrash Tanchuma, “it is referring to “light” Mitzvos which people are not careful to keep and they throw them away under their heels”.
2. The Rebbe questions the Midrash Tanchuma:
According to Rashi, who says that the Torah is discussing Mitzvos which people “trample on with their heels”, it makes perfect sense why the Torah uses the word “Eikev – Heel” because people trample on things with their heels.
However according to the Midrash Tanchuma, who says that the Torah is referring to Mitzvos which people are not careful to keep and “throw away under their heels”, why would the Torah specifically use the word “Eikev – Heel” to describe this? If a person is throwing away the Mitzvos, then he is throwing them away totally; not just under his heels! What kind of connection is there between “Eikev – a heel” and not keeping the Mitzvos?
3. The Rebbe now answers the question:
Unlike Rashi, the Midrash is not discussing someone who thinks that he does not have to be careful in the “light” Mitzvos. The Midrash is discussing someone who agrees that he must keep the “light” Mitzvos, however he pushes them off to the bottom of the stack; he “throws them under his heel”.
This person says that first he has to make sure that the “head” is the way it should be, meaning, that the “most important” Mitzvos are being fulfilled properly, and then move on to the next level of Mitzvos, etc, until finally he will get to the Mitzvos of the heel, the “least important” Mitzvos, and after that he might get to extra stringencies and go beyond the letter of the law.
According to him, there has to be an orderly fashion based on logical calculation as to how one fulfills Mitzvos. For example, if we come and tell him that he must love every fellow Jew like himself, even someone whom he has never met or has never done him a favor, he says, “I am still not perfect in loving the Jews who I do know and who have done me favors, how can you demand that I love the ones that I have never met?” Another example; if we come and tell him that he must learn “Chitas” every day, he says, “How can you ask me to learn extra things when I am still not perfect in Davening (praying)?”
The Torah is telling this type of person, says the Midrash, that if you do not make this calculation and push off certain Mitzvos you will be rewarded with Hashem’s kindness.
4. The Rebbe now explains why indeed this type of thinking is wrong and what is demanded of us instead:
Even though this manner of thinking seemingly makes sense, it is incorrect. The beginning of our service to Hashem must be faith in Him and accepting His yoke upon ourselves. As we see, when we got the Torah the Jewish people first said, “Naseh – We will do”, and only then did they say, “V’Nishma – We will listen”.
Our Sages tell us that the word “Mitzvah – commandment” comes from the word “Tzavsa – to connect”. When a person realizes that the point of every single Mitzvah is to connect with Hashem, there is no such thing as a “big” Mitzvah or a “small” Mitzvah; he is connecting to Hashem and that’s it.
5. The Rebbe now tells us a story which illustrates this point and shows us how to educate our children:
The Previous Rebbe (Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson) said that when his children were young he hired a teacher for them who thought that it is incorrect to teach youngsters about miracles and wonders which do not make sense. Only older people, said the teacher, who have already developed and can understand things properly, should be taught things which are higher than understanding. When the Rebbe Rashab (Rebbe Shalom DovBer) heard about this, said the Previous Rebbe, he immediately told the teacher off.
We see from this story that we have to begin with faith and accepting Hashem’s yoke, not with understanding, and all other arguments to contrary are from the evil inclination.
6. The Rebbe now points out how the above explanation clarifies something else:
The above quoted Midrash Tanchuma continues on with his explanation and says that this issue of trampling upon “lighter” Mitzvos is what Dovid Hamelech (King David) is referring to when he says, “Why should I be fearful in days of evil when the injunctions that I trod upon will surround me”; Dovid Hamelech was worried, says the Midrash, that he was not fulfilling the “lighter” Mitzvos even though Hashem says to keep the “more important” Mitzvos just like the “lighter” Mitzvos.
However we must challenge this explanation of the Midrash since we know that Dovid Hamelech obviously did fulfill all of the Torah’s commandments, even the “lighter” Mitzvos. As the Midrash itself immediately continues and quotes Dovid Hamelech as saying such. If so, why would Dovid Hamelech be afraid that he wasn’t fulfilling the “lighter” Mitzvos if he knew he was fulfilling them?
Bearing in mind the above explanation however will make this clear: The Torah doesn’t just demand that we fulfill the “lighter” Mitzvos like the “more important” Mitzvos; the Torah demands that we equate them equally and treat them the same. And this is what Dovid Hamelech was worried about; “Even though I am fulfilling all of the commandments”, said Dovid Hamelech, “maybe I am not excited to keep the ‘lighter’ commandments exactly like the ‘more important’ ones”.
Translated and adapted by Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos volume 19, first Sicha.