No Fanfare!

Our Portion is called Aikev. The literal translation of Aikev is heel. Rashi quotes the Medrash which explains that Moshe tells the nation, of course G-d rewards us for the big or harder Mitzvos, but how about, what we would consider the small Mitzvos? The ones that we may regard as unimportant, and so to speak, we tread upon them with our heels? Moshe guarantees that G-d regards, cherishes and rewards us for every single Mitzvah that we do, no matter how big or small we may perceive it.

Rabbi Eliezer Gordon o.b.m. would say, that every Mitzvah one does publicly accomplishes two things. One, the actual Mitzvah of listening to G-d’s command, and secondly he inspires others who observed him doing the Mitzvah. When one walks, his heel strike causes a vibration. By referring to listening to G-d’s ordinances as Aikev – heel – it alludes to the side effects, the reverberation of the Mitzvah which inspires others. We are rewarded for the positive effects that our actions had on others although we were unaware of them. Moshe tells us that G-d is aware and takes it into account and rewards us for it.

There are features within each Mitzvah that are glossed over, and at times fall to the wayside and may get ‘trampled over with one’s heel.’

The Kapischnitzer Rebbe, Rabbi Avrohom Yehoshua Heschel o.b.m. was a holy sage who was sought out by many for his blessings and wise counsel. He was known for his heart of gold and his love for every Jew.

One of his admirers was a wealthy and generous man who the Rebbe could count on if large sums of money were needed to assist others.

One day, the Rebbe made a visit to his office. The man was shocked to see the Rebbe. “What is it that brought the Rebbe here? You should have called me and I would have been at your home at once.”

The Rebbe began, “I came here to speak to you about a matter of which I just became aware. It is about a large family that is struggling to make ends meet. Aside from that, they have a daughter who is engaged to soon be married and they have no foreseeable way to cover the costs of the wedding and all that comes with it.” The man was moved and said to the Rebbe, “Tell me an amount and I’ll write out a check to cover whatever is needed.” The Rebbe told him the amount, and man took out his checkbook and began writing the check and then looked up at the Rebbe and asked, “To whom should I make the check out?” The Rebbe lowered his head, and in a soft voice he replied, “To your brother….”

A child recalled: “We lived in a certain community in Israel where my father was known for the wonderful kindnesses he did for others. It wasn’t very often that we went away for the weekend. Yet one particular weekend we went to spend Shabbos with a relative who lived in a community a 30-minute drive away.

When we arrived, I realized that I had forgotten something at home that I needed for the weekend. My father realized how important it was to me and insisted that he take me back home to get it. I gave him a hard time, pointing out that we seldom get away, and that traveling back home would take away precious time that he could spend with the family. But he insisted on driving back home.

“During the ride home, my father began speaking to me about the importance of performing a kindness for others. But he stressed that one should never neglect the obligation of doing kindnesses for the ones who are dearest to you, your own family.

“When you will eventually raise a family, be certain to do Chesed for them. Go the extra mile. The kindnesses that you do for your family is considered ‘true Chesed’ as opposed to the Chesed you perform for others. Because when you do a kindness for others, it impresses them, they thank you for it, and they anticipate an opportunity to return or pay back the favor that you have done.” My father continued, “This is not the case when you do a kindness and go out of your way for you own family. They don’t look at your assistance as a kindness; they look at what you are doing as your function as a father, husband or brother helping them out. When you go out of your way for them it is a kindness of the highest degree, since they don’t realize or recognize the extent of your kindness, as it would be if you were to do the identical act for others.”

“As we concluded the conversation and the tremendous lesson that my father taught me, we arrived home. When we opened the door to our apartment we realized that when someone does a true act of kindness, Hashem – G-d pays him or her back accordingly. We were immediately overcome by a terrible odor of gas. Apparently, the gas to the stove was not shut off completely and the dangerous fumes were filling the house.

“It was not difficult for me to imagine what would have happened if we would have not returned home. My father’s insistence on doing a Chesed paid off in many ways, especially the message that true Chesed begins at home, and without any fanfare!