“Souls of Ikvata”

[Tal Chermon - translated by Bracha Slae]

[This Dvar Torah is based on the meanings of the unusual word "Eikev" with which our Parashah begins, and with related words: "Akev = heel", "Eikev = as a result" and "Ikvata De-Meshicha = "The 'heels' of the Messiah".]

There are souls which can be likened to the head of a body and there are those which can be likened to a heel. All these souls together form a distinct entity - the collective body of the Nation of Israel. The head and the heel each has its own unique qualities, and neither can do without the other. The heel has “its feet on the ground.” It can tread even on the thorniest soil, while “falsehood has nothing to stand on.”
Our forefather Yaakov had this "Akev" quality: “And his hand was holding on to Eisav’s heel” (Bereshit 25:26). He overcame all obstacles through his connection to the Divine: “For you wrestled with G-d and men, and you overcame them” (ibid. 32:29). This was accomplished by grabbing reality “by the heel” (similar perhaps to the metaphorical “Achilles heel”). Ya’akov’s nature is one of a Torah Scholar - “a simple man, a tent-dweller” (ibid. 25:27 with Rashi), but he has a firm grasp on reality, and can deal with corruption by attacking its “Achilles heel.” Danger lurks in the heel, not the head, as we learn from the metaphor of the snake through whom Adam was cursed, “And he shall bite your heel” (ibid. 3:15).Rabbi Akiva was also endowed with "Akev qualities." His life story is an example of one who learned how to free himself from the snake’s curse. A descendant of gentiles who converted to Judaism, he hated Torah scholars in his youth. Through intellectual discipline and effort in the learning of Torah, he rose to such a level that he had 24,000 disciples. Just before Moshe Rabbenu’s death, the Holy One showed him a vision of Rabbi Akiva teaching Torah and then being martyred “Al Kiddush HaShem.” Ben Azai, one of Rabbi Akiva's most outstanding disciples, respected him more than any of the other rabbis of his time, as he alone was able to deal with the worst corruption and the hardest problems, those of the "Akev".This ability is most needed in Ikvata De-Meshicha, the period preceding the coming of Messiah, when the most spiritual concepts such as the Kingship of G-d must be brought down to earth through the Nation of Israel. Now the time has come to translate the prayer “They shall crown You in Heavens and on the earth” (recited in the Kedushah of Shemoneh Esrei), into down-to-earth action through establishment of a sovereign Israel. Simultaneously, the “souls of Ikvata” appear, those souls ensnarled in the problems of "Akev". One of the signs the Talmud cites of Ikvata De-Meshicha is the prevalence of chutzpah. This chutzpah is an integral part of the process of redemption, a part of the “Achilles heel” of the process. It is as if a snake is curled around the heels of the Messiah, nevertheless we will not give up.
Maran Ha-Rav Kook explained: Even if a snake, the symbol of the evil inclination, death, and the Satan is curled around a Jew’s heel, he still remains tied to the Soul of the People of Israel.
In this period, special Torah leaders possessing leadership qualities appropriate to this special generation are required. On his deathbed, Yaakov attempted to reveal the secrets of the Redemption to his sons, but was not permitted to do so (see ibid. 49:1 with Rashi). However, in the Talmud, Rabbi Abba states: “There is no clearer sign that the time of Redemption has arrived than that the Land of Israel produces fruit in abundance.” Under the guidance of our great teacher, Ha-Rav Kook, we are involved in uplifting the "Akev". We do so, not by breaking with our past, but “as a result of (Eikev) following these laws” (Devarim 7:12), and understanding the quintessential divinity encompassing even “those [seemingly] unimportant mitzvot which one treads on with his heel (Akev)” (Rashi ibid.). This stems from an understanding of the special position of Am Israel, of “the covenant and the compassion which He swore to your forefathers,” of our continuity from Avraham Avinu. When the Redemption arrives, heaven and earth will be united, and the Divine essence of the heel too will be apparent.
We will continue to help this process along, as King David said: “Your servant was careful in them [the mitzvot], in keeping them is 'Eikev Rav' (great reward)” (Tehillim 19:12).