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Use It Well

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If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. Deuteronomy 7:12

The Torah portion for this week is Eikev, which means "therefore" or "heel," from Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 49:14-51:3.

When Apple first came out with the iPad and the price was quite steep, a funny video captured the greatness of the technology as well as how it could be lost on many. In the video, a woman is seen preparing a meal with her elderly father. As he chops vegetables, she asks, "Dad, how do you like the iPad that we gave you for your birthday yesterday?" The father replies, "It's good." At that point the viewers see that the "chopping board" is actually the iPad. As his daughter watches in utter shock, the man takes the iPad, rinses it in water, and places it inside the dishwasher!

While this quirky video definitely evokes a chuckle, it can also teach us an important lesson: The value of anything is ultimately determined by how we use it.

This week's reading starts off: "If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them . . ." The Hebrew word used in this verse for the word "If" is eikev. This is a highly unusual choice of wording which is not lost on the Jewish sages. There are a host of commentaries on just this word, which also means "heel." When Scripture uses an unexpected word, there is always a deeper lesson to be learned.

One explanation connects the use of the word "heel" in our verse to the first time the word is used in the Bible. In Genesis 3, after the snake had tempted Adam and Eve to eat from the forbidden tree in Eden, God cursed the snake, saying in verse 15, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

The snake is a symbol of Satan, and in this curse, according to Jewish teaching, God was explaining that man could either use his heel to crush the head of Satan or Satan could insert his venom into man's heel. In other words, either man will overcome Satan's seductions, or he will succumb to them.

The sages explain that each of our limbs and organs can be a source of great strength, allowing us to accomplish great things, or they can be our Achilles' heel, causing our downfall. The same hand that can contribute to good causes can also take what doesn't belong to it. The same heart that can love one person unconditionally can hate another for no reason. The same legs that can carry a person to do good deeds can also take him to a place of immorality. God gave us the greatest "machine" of all - the human body - but ultimately, we determine its value by how well we use it to follow God's Word.

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