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"This shall be the reward because you hearken to these ordinances, and you observe and perform them; Hashem, your G-d, will safeguard for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers" (Devarim 12:7).
The Hebrew word "eikev," which in this sentence means "because," can also be translated to mean "heel." Therefore, Rashi brings the Midrashic interpretation of the Sages who said that one will be rewarded if he hearkens to the lighter commands which a person usually treads on with his heels (i.e. which a person is inclined to treat lightly).
It is common for people to observe those commandments which are, or he considers to be, "important." But they are lax in observing the "less important" ones. The truth is, however, that it is specifically by obeying Hashem's "insignificant" mitzvahs that one proves that he is G-d's proper servant. For a loyal servant does not delve into the importance of his master's request; he simply fulfills them as is expected of him.
The problem is that usually we perform mitzvahs for our own benefit, not in order to obey Hashem's will. Therefore, we choose the ones which we have the most to gain from - especially in this world which is really on our mind most of the time.
Rabbi Yeruchem Gorelick, z"l, a student of the Brisker Rav, ztvk"l, and one of the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva University, used to speak about this phenomenon. He complained that, for example, there are many people who would literally go to the ends of the world, with seemingly tremendous self-sacrifice, to do a favor for someone in need. Yet, they would not pass the salt at the table in the dining room. It seems incredible that someone would do something which is so difficult yet refuse to do something so simple. However, the truth is that it was never his friend's concern which troubled him. He always thought only about himself. Therefore, an act of kindness which would bring him "headlines," as everyone applauded him and went into raptures over his selflessness and dedication to humanity; such a deed he was happy to do. But who would even notice if he passed the salt or performed other "insignificant" mitzvahs? Therefore he abandoned those for others to fulfill.
This is the reason that people will donate exorbitant sums to charity, where they are rewarded with honors, dedications and plaques, but won't help their own family members who are suffering and need their help desperately.
Hashem commanded Moshe: "Speak to the people of Israel, and say to them, If any man of you brings an offering to Hashem, you shall bring your offering of the cattle, of the herd, and of the flock" (Vayikra 1:2). The Sages comment (Vayikra Rabbah 27:6), "Hashem said, 'I gave you ten types of animals [that are kosher]. Three of them are in your domain: the ox, the sheep, and the goat; and seven of them are not: the hart, the deer, the yachmur, the akko, the dishon, the teo, and the zamer. I did not make it difficult for you and I did not tell you to exhaust yourselves to climb the mountains and bring me a sacrifice from those which are not in your domain. Rather, I commanded you to bring those which are raised in your troughs.'"
The simple understanding of this Midrash is that it would certainly be more difficult if we were required to bring deer, for example, as sacrifices, rather than sheep and goats. Consequently, we should see from this how understanding and kind Hashem was to us by not making it excessively difficult to serve Him.
Rabbi Gorelick, however, interpreted this Chazal in a novel way. He argued contrarily that, if we had to don our hunting clothes and gather together our gear; hire buses and climb the mountains to catch some non-domesticated animals to sacrifice, we would gladly do it. This is because we would enjoy the excitement of the trip and also because we would cherish the recognition we would receive for having passed the difficult challenge successfully. But Hashem revealed to us that this is not what the Torah is all about. The Torah wants us just to walk into our back yard, where there are no reporters and no fanfare, and pick out a proper sheep and sacrifice it on the alter for G-d's sake. That is called honoring Hashem's holy Name rather than seeking to proliferate our own fame.
Many times a day we hear the recitation of the Kaddish in the synagogue. This beautiful prayer begins with the words, "May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified." The thought behind this supplication is that everyone around the world should recognize Hashem for what He really is: Great and Holy. This should be our ultimate goal and it should be on our minds constantly. Unfortunately, most of our efforts are geared to becoming popular and spreading our own names around the globe.
Therefore the Torah teaches us in this week's parashah that if we hearken even to those mitzvahs which people usually tread on with their heal, we will prove by that that we are true servants of Hashem and we will be ultimately rewarded and will be truly happy in this world and in the World-to-come.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network