והיה עקב תשמעון וגו'... ואהבך וברכך והרבך...
“And it will be because you will listen… And I will love you and bless you and increase you…” (Devarim 7:12-13)
The word eikav, as used in this verse, is an unusual phrase that requires explanation. Additionally, the verse seems to indicate that Hashem loves us only when we listen to Him and fulfill His commandments. But isn’t Hashem’s love for us total and unconditional? Why does the Torah tell us that only when we listen will Hashem love us and bless us?
We say in our daily prayers: “Blessed are You Hashem who chose His nation Israel with love…” and “You love us with an eternal love...” Hashem loves us unconditionally, and His love is not diminished if we commit transgressions. Why does the Torah imply otherwise in the above-quoted verses?
To understand this, we must gain a better understanding of the loving relationship that exists between Hashem and us. The Torah commands us: “And you shall love Hashem your G-d.” There are many mitzvos in the Torah, including many positive and negative commandments. When the Torah commands us about our actions, we can do our utmost to fulfill them, but how can the Torah command us about our emotions? How can the Torah command us to love Hashem? What if a person hasn’t acquired this love, could he be faulted? Love is an emotion that cannot be forced.
The Chassidic masters explain that the mitzvah to love Hashem does not mean that we must open up a new channel of love in our hearts. Within the heart of every Jew there is a strong love for Hashem, but it is often hidden – buried underneath layers of sinful and improper thoughts, words and actions. The mitzvah to love Hashem obligates us to cleanse our hearts until the deep-rooted, ever-existing love for Hashem comes through. The Torah doesn’t force us to love; it obligates us to uncover the love that already exists.
There is an ancient legend about the Kosel Hamaaravi (Western Wall) that illustrates this point. One of the Byzantine Sultans who ruled Eretz Yisroel in the early Middle Ages searched for the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, but he couldn’t find it. One day he came upon a huge garbage heap. He asked the residents about it, but most of them knew nothing more than the fact that it was an ancient dumping ground. Finally, the Sultan learned the real story behind the garbage heap. When the Romans destroyed the Bais Hamikdash they could not destroy the Western Wall no matter how hard they tried. The Romans decided to obliterate the wall by covering it with garbage. They issued a decree that everyone must dump their garbage on the wall. People brought cartloads of sand, rocks, broken items and waste and dumped it near the wall, until the entire wall was completely buried.
The Sultan wanted to uncover the wall, but how would he accomplish this formidable task? He hit upon an idea: he hid a few gold coins in the garbage piles and spread a rumor that a vast fortune of gold was buried underneath the rubble. People came by droves and began clearing the garbage. Here and there someone found a gold coin and this fueled everyone’s enthusiasm. Within several days, the Western Wall appeared in all its beauty.
Every person’s heart is a sanctuary for Hashem. The yetzer hara tries to destroy it, but he doesn’t have the power to do that. He therefore tries a different tactic - to cover it with dirt until no one would see or feel the kedusha that is buried underneath. We must clear the dirt away to uncover the kedusha in our hearts, to enable our love for Hashem to come forth.
Hashem’s love for His children has never been lessened. The Baal Shem Tov once saw his disciple Rabbi Nachman kissing his beloved only son, and he told him: “You certainly love your only son very much. Just know that Hashem loves each and every single person much more than you love your son!” When the yetzer hara covers our hearts with dirt, he hides our love for Hashem and also distances us from Him, making it difficult to feel His love for us.
This is the meaning of the verse: “And it will be because you will listen… and I will love you.” The verse is telling us that we will feel Hashem’s love! Although His love for us is always present, it is not always felt. If we will keep the Torah, thereby uncovering the dirt from our hearts, we will actually feel Hashem’s deep love for each and every person.
It may seem as if Hashem forgot about us, but “can a woman forget about the child of her womb?” The love of parents to their children is everlasting. So many Jewish children are lost to their Father in Heaven. Can we fathom the pain of the holy Shechina? “A voice is heard on High, with lamenting and bitter weeping. Rachel is crying because of her children.” Rachel symbolizes the Shechina. Hashem is crying because of His children. “There is no consolation, because they are not here.” Hashem cannot be consoled because so many of His beloved children are not here! True, there are numerous frum Yidden who learn Torah and keep the mitzvos, but this does not console Hashem over the millions who are lost to Yiddishkeit.
Let us imagine the terrible anguish of parents whose child went missing. Some of their friends try to console them by saying: “Why must you mourn your missing son? You have eight beautiful children that are left; why focus on the one you lost?” Of course, such words are utterly foolish. No matter how much the parents love their other children they will never forget their missing child. So too, Hashem cannot forget His missing children.
The next verse consoles Rachel: “Withhold your voice from weeping and your eyes from shedding tears, for your children will return to their borders.” Hashem promised that all children will return; every lost soul will yet come back!
This promise is found in the verse: “And it will be eikav – because you will listen.” The word eikav can mean the end, the heel. The verse is telling us that in the end the Jewish people will listen. In the days of eikav - ikvesa d’mshicha – when the approaching footsteps of Moshicah will be heard, the people will return. The verse begins with the word והיה, which symbolizes joy. A great joy will envelope the world at the end of days, in the generation of eikav, because everyone will listen to Hashem. We will hear the call of the shofar and repent with all our hearts. No one will be left behind!
Jerusalem will be reborn! All her children will return, and they will keep the Torah and all mitzvos with love and joy. Let us pray to Hashem that we shouldn’t have much longer to wait. We cannot bear to wait so long; we have no more strength left for this bitter galus.
Hashem should help us that we, the generation of eikav that is compared to the “heel” - the lowest part of the person, should be able to listen and hear the words of Hashem.