The name of our parashah is Ekev. Rashi explains that it relates to the word “Akev” – which is Hebrew for heel, and hence alludes to mitzvoth which a person allegorically “steps upon with his heel” (namely, mitzvoth which might seem to us to be marginal or not so important). Rashi’s commentary thus cautions us not to be in the business of purporting to ascertain which spiritual and ethical acts carry less weight than others, because every holy act carries incalculable potential for self-betterment and global redemption.
Secondly, because the name of our parashah (“Ekev”) is related to the word “Akev” (heel), it attests to the cardinal importance of humility in religious life. Arrogance and haughtiness are thus the very antithesis of sanctity and holiness.
Thirdly, observes a prominent commentator known as “Ba’al Haturim”, the word “Ekev” is equivalent to the number 172 in numerology (gematriya). 172 is also the number of words in the Ten Commandments (which contain within them all 613 mitzvoth tacitly and inherently). This stresses the importance of both spiritual and ethical mitzvoth, as the right tablet of the Ten Commandments focuses more on spiritual mitzvoth, and the left tablet focuses more inter-personal mitzvoth and morality.
Lastly, the word “Ekev” carries in Hebrew the same letters as the word “Keva”, which is Hebrew for consistency. This linguistic symbolism captures the importance of consistency and regularity of religious practice in our tradition. Thus, the name of our parashah, “Ekev”, captures four key Jewish principles:
1. Never underestimate the power and effect of a good deed.
2. Work hard to be humble, and avoid arrogance.
3. Remember that spirituality and morality are equally important.
4. Don’t be spiritual only when “you’re in the mood”, but rather make sure that you experience and internalize G-d’s presence in the world every day and every hour of your life.