By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson in memory of his late mother
Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM.
This week’s Torah portion Eikev (Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12-11:25) begins with the statement "Vehaya eikev tishme'un..." The literal translation is "Because of your listening to these commandments" (you will merit the blessings which the Torah goes on to enumerate).
The word eikev can also mean "heel." The commentator Rashi explains that the verse is alluding to the "light" commandments, the seemingly less important mitzvot which people tend to "trample with their heels." The type of things which all too easily fall by the wayside. We all know about the "major" commandments, such as keeping kosher, or fasting on Yom Kippur, things like that. What about the smaller details? Are we as careful?
This idea applies across all aspects of our lives. The quietest child -- do we too easily ignore him or her precisely because s/he is quiet and shy? What about all those big multi-million dollar campaigns for this or that cause? It is very good that some causes develop such high publicity -- but what about the causes nobody hears about? The "little" things which fall by the wayside?
What about the workplace? Obviously I would never dream of embezzling from my employer. That is clearly immoral and not right. On the other hand, I need to make a quick international personal call -- surely nobody will mind. It's only a few dollars, right? Are we taking advantage of someone else, even in a small, seemingly insignificant manner?
Then there is my relationship with G-d, my behavior as a Jew, charged with maintaining high standards in all aspects of my life. Obviously I would never do anything really terrible, but what about the "small details"? Are they as important to me?
These and many other examples come to mind in our everyday lives, at home and at work, in our business, financial and personal dealings. It is all too easy to rationalize and justify a small-scale violation of our principles, much more so than a "major" violation.
Of course, a large number of small quantities add up to a much larger quantity, even if they are seemingly insignificant by themselves. But there is an additional reason why the "small details" are so important. A person has two inclinations -- the "good inclination" and the "evil inclination" (yetzer tov and yetzer hara) -- those two inner voices that clamor for our attention. The evil inclination is very smart and devious. It does not come to a person and say, "Go on, rob a bank," or a similarly large-scale misdeed. Why not? Because it knows no decent person will fall for such a suggestion. So it comes to a person and suggests a much more reasonable sounding idea -- why not add a few dollars to the expenses claim, after all you worked hard, you deserve to get paid more anyway, right? Once we fall for the lighter temptation, our resistance has been eroded and it will be much easier to become ensnared in worse and worse behavior until we find ourselves falling into large-scale violations of our principles.
This is why the seemingly little things are so important -- they must not be trampled on, allowed to fall by the wayside. By withstanding the small temptations, we avoid the slippery slope that leads to greater transgressions and remain true to our principles.
Let us not forget the little things.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg)