Jews read sections of the Torah each week, and these sections, known as parshiyot, inspire endless examination year after year. Each week we will bring you regular essays examining these portions from a queer perspective, drawn from the Torah Queeries online collection, which was inspired by the book Torah Queeries: Weekly Commentaries on the Hebrew Bible. This week, Amos Lassen considers what Moses can teach us about LGBT pride.
The book of Deuteronomy focuses on the time just before the death of Moses. The Israelites are encamped on a plateau in Moab, poised to enter the land of Israel. Parashat Eikev, the third Torah portion in Deuteronomy, opens with Moses addressing the assembled Israelites. Eikev translates from Hebrew as “if” or “as a consequence of.” Yet, the literal translation of “eikev” is “heel” and comes from the same root as the name “Ya’akov” (Jacob), who was so named because he was holding onto the heel of his twin, Esau, when the two were born. We, therefore, can read Deuteronomy 7:12 as saying, “And it will come to pass on the heel of your hearkening to these rules. . .” Nothing in life occurs in a vacuum, nothing happens just by itself; everything happens “eikev” — on the heel of everything else. As we venture through life, we are always dependent on someone or something and as we strive to achieve our goals, we rely on each other and G-d.
The word “eikev” in the context of Torah teaches us to make decisions that are in accordance with G-d and with the larger society — even more so when the larger society is unjust.
Looking again at the word “eikev” as “heel” or “that part of the foot we use in walking,” we see that whenever a person takes a step — either literally or figuratively — he or she must first reflect and decide if that step demonstrates respect for society and for the will of G-d. If in doubt, then we should hesitate to take the step. We must understand the verse of scripture to be “Vehaya eikev,” and realize that with every step we take, we shall learn if it is the will of G-d that the step should be taken.