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Parashat Eqev

August 19, 2008

Parashat Eqev – Assembling the Menorah
By Moshe Rudin

As careful readers of the Torah text- both the text given to us at Sinai and its commentary that God reveals to each of us through the unfolding text of our lives- we have been taught to be constantly on the lookout for the unusual turn of phrase or the unexpected word. We have learned that it is from the seemingly out of place language that there emerge tilei tilim – heaps and heaps – of insight and teachings.

One such word emerges from the first pasuq (verse) of this week’s parashah: Eqev. The pasuq reads: It shall be that following upon (eqev) that you listen to these ordinances, that you keep and do them, that HaShem your God will keep for you the Covenant (Brit) and the Lovingkindness which God swore to your ancestors.

Eqev is a term related to the Hebrew root which means “heel.” It is the same root contained in the name Ya’aqov, who emerged from the womb grasping the heel of his brother Esav. Eqev then implies “following upon” or “as a consequence of” or “on the heels of” but also, more expansively “building upon and across toward the future.” More crucially, Eqev implies an active relationship rather than just causality; because of/through your hearkening, God will be present for you.

To a people such as ours, Eqev echoes with associations of continuity, destiny and promises kept across generations. The Brit, the mutuality between Israel and God, is present in our lives to the precise extent that we are present to the Brit. The pasuq mentions tishma’un, u’shmartem, v’ashitm – hearing, keeping and doing as modalities through which we bring God’s presence into our present- or our presence into God’s eternal present. The word Eqev connects the eternal Brit with each moment of our lives- each choice we make, each intention that we call forth.

Aryeh Leib, the Rabbi of Ger, in his seminal work S’fat Emet, sees every Jew as constantly engaged in connecting the world to its Source. He examines the strange Midrash for our parashah that asks a question seemingly totally unrelated to the Torah portion: “A person of Israel who owns a menorah which can be disassembled . . . are they permitted to carry it on Shabbat?” (Midrash Rabbah, Eqev, 3:1) The conclusion is that it is forbidden to carry a disassembled menorah because one might come to assemble it.

The halakhah of the menorah comes to teach about Eqev, about connectedness, explains the Gerer. Every Jew has a menorah, a source of light, made of pieces. Each of us must connect the pieces in order for it to give off its light. Each of us must become the link between the materiality of outwardness and the holiness of hiddeness. How? Through Eqev, through continuity, through connection to who we truly are and through the profound understanding that God’s presence fills not only the cosmos, but every interaction, every mundane moment – if, in the daring words of the Kotzker Rebbe, we let God in.

After working all week to create connections ion the physical world, Shabbat is when the menorah is assembled spiritually and its light infuses and blesses our lives in all of their turbulent detail and in all of their apparent randomness. The heart is filled with wonder when we behold grand natural phenomena such as sunrises and thunderstorms: but it is also filled with awe when we see the infinitude of small details of a tide pool or the jagged edge of a leaf. Wonder and awe come together when we achieve a hint of the connectedness of all things. The faith of our ancestors, their story and their truth has Eqev given us a gateway to eternity, a place where we can stand with them, where we can light our soul-menorahs together.

Shabbat Shalom


Moshe Rudin is a rabbinical student at AJR.