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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

You are Well-Heeled!

Daf Yomi Yevamos 102

Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov would spend a very long time in prayer.  Oftentimes, his students were long done with their prayers but they would remain in his holy presence until he had concluded his service.  One day, however, they were feeling hungry and decided to proceed to breakfast.   He would be enraptured in prayer for the next couple of hours and they could quickly eat and return to his chambers before his completion.

No sooner had they sat down to eat than their saintly teacher appeared.
“Rebbe,” they exclaimed, “is everything okay?  You normally continue much longer!  And you are generally so uplifted in prayer that you are oblivious to everything around!  How did you know we left?”
“When I daven,” explained the Baal Shem Tov, “it’s like a human pyramid of prayer.  Each of your prayers – nay, your mere presence in the room – allows me to climb ever higher in the spiritual planes.   Without you there with me, I had no stepping stone to the supernal realms and I was unable to accomplish my spiritual pursuits.  I need you; you are all the building blocks of my prayer service!” 

If a woman is widowed and left childless, she is wed to her husband’s brother in the act of the levirate marriage.  Should they wish to annul the marriage, the Torah declares, “His brother's wife shall draw near unto him in the presence of the elders, she shall loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face; and she shall answer and say: So shall it be done unto the man that does not build up his brother's house.”

Rabbi Judah quoted Rav: The annulment is complete with the removal of the shoe from the majority of the heel.
The Gemara challenges this ruling from the Beraisa which states, “If the straps of the shoe or sandal were untied or he removed most of the leg, her annulment is invalid.”  The reason is because he removed his leg, but if she did so, her annulment is valid.  Furthermore, if it was most of the leg, it is good, which implies that mere removal of most of the heel would be ineffective.
The Gemara responds: No! Most of the leg and most of the heel are the same thing!  Why did they say ‘most of the leg’?  For the entire pressure of the leg is supported by the heel. 

Sometimes we think that we are unimportant in the grand scheme of things.   It always seems to be the machers who are in the limelight.  But remember, the head is held up by the neck, which is held up by the torso, which is held up by the legs.  And the leg is held up by the heel!  No matter where you feel your place is in life, you are incredibly important!  And indeed, in many ways, the ‘lowly’ heel is the most important part of the body.  The heel is the support for every other part of the body.  If you sometimes feel like the heel of the community or society, know that you are holding up the world!

When you embrace your role as the heel, the support upon which society leans, you become the macher.  Instead of ruing your place in life, recognize that is an honour to be “well-heeled”!  Well-heeled doesn’t mean being rich and famous; it means becoming the strength and support for those around you.  You are the heel – the person that’s always there in times of need, the one that never misses a minyan, the first one to raise their hand when something needs to get done in shul but nobody else seems to have the time for such a ‘menial’ task.  Without you, all the “machers” would be worthless!

Our forefather, Abraham, was told to abandon his original name, Abram.  Jacob, in contrast, who became known as Israel, continued to use his original name.  And that’s why we continue to name our children either Jacob or Israel.  Why?  Jacob comes from the word ekev, meaning ‘heel’.  In terms of support and foundation, the heel is the most important part of the body.  It provides the strength and basis for every other part of your body to function!

Don’t ever downplay your role in your life even if you sometimes feel that you are a ‘foot soldier.’  You are the most important person to your community and society.  Without you, everything else would collapse.  May you merit the strength to continue to hold everyone else up and may you receive your Divine reward for being the foundation and support of your community and society!