Parashat Eikev beings with the promise of great reward “as a result of your obeying all these statutes…” Rashi, in his famous opening comments to this parasha, cites the Midrash Tanchuma as noting the significance of the Torah’s use of the word “eikev” (“as a result of”) in this verse. This word literally means “heel,” and is occasionally used in reference to a result, which follows “on the heels” of some action or event. However, the Midrash comments that the word “eikev” in this context also serves as a veiled reference to, in Rashi’s words, “the ‘light’ mitzvot which a person treads upon with his heels.” According to the Midrash, the rewards promised in this section are granted specifically for our meticulous observance of commands which people often neglect, whose worth is commonly undervalued.
Rav Aharon of Karlin (in Beit Aharon) adds a further dimension to this Midrashic reading of the word “eikev,” suggesting that it alludes to the need to bring meaning and sanctity to everything in our lives, even to that upon which we “tread with our heels.” We have a tendency to compartmentalize our lives, reserving religious devotion to certain areas of lives, and assuming that other areas are excluded from the religious experience. Rav Aharon of Karlin cites in this context King David’s pronouncement in Tehillim (119:53), “Chishavti derakhai” – “I have calculated my paths,” and explains this to mean that King David thought of ways to “elevate” all his “paths,” even his simplest and most mundane affairs. He discovered how each and every “path” he took in life, any activity he found himself involved in, offered an opportunity to achieve something meaningful. Rav Aharon of Karlin writes further that Yaakov’s famous vision of a ladder stationed on the ground and extending to the heavens symbolizes how every place and every experience in life presents us with a “ladder” to the “heavens” – with some significant opportunity for spiritual achievement. And thus the Midrash here in Parashat Eikev speaks of that which people “tread” upon with their “heels,” urging us to never underestimate the value of any situation or experience in life. Wherever we find ourselves, we have an opportunity to achieve something meaningful, and we must look for that opportunity in each circumstance and make an effort to seize it.