Parashat Ekeb- Reaping the Fruits of Our Misvot
Parashat Ekeb begins by telling of the great rewards which G-d promises to give us if we faithfully observe the Misvot. This includes the blessings of children, material prosperity, and victory over our hostile enemies.
These verses become difficult to understand in light of the verse that immediately precedes this section – the final verse of the previous Parasha, Parashat Vaet’hanan. There Moshe exhorts us to fulfill all the laws "that I am commanding you today to perform." Rashi, based on the Gemara, explains the phrase "Hayom La’sotam" ("today to perform") as indicating that we perform them "today," in this world, but the reward will be received only in the future, in the world to come. This final verse of Parashat Vaet’hanan, then, establishes that the reward for Misva observance is paid not here in our world, but rather in the next world. How, then, can the Torah immediately then tell us of the rewards of children, prosperity and military victory? How are we promised these rewards for Torah observance, if Torah observance is rewarded only in the next world?
One answer that has been given lies in a distinction between the two basic categories of Misvot – our obligations to G-d ("Ben Adam La’Makom"), and our interpersonal obligations ("Ben Adam La’habero"). The verse in Yeshayahu (3:10) speaks of a "Sadik Ki Tob" – "righteous person who is good," and says that such people will "consume the fruit of their deeds." The Gemara in Masechet Kiddushin (40a) explains that this refers to those Sadikim who are "Tob La’Shamayim Ve’la’beriyot" – "good to G-d and to people," meaning, who fulfill both their obligations to the Almighty, and their obligations to other people. Such a person "consumes the fruit of his deeds" – meaning, he enjoys the "fruit" of his Misvot already in this world. The reward for the Misvot "Ben Adam La’Makom" that we fulfill are given only in the next world, but the rewards for our interpersonal Misvot are paid already in this world. Indeed, the opening Mishna of Masechet Pe’a, which we recite after the Beracha over Torah learning each morning, lists certain Misvot "whose fruits a person eats in this word, while the principal remains intact for the next world." The vast majority of these Misvot are interpersonal Misvot. We consume the "fruits" of these Misvot already here in this world, without diminishing from the "principal," which will be given to us in full in the next world.
This resolves the seeming contradiction between the end of Parashat Va’et’hanan and the beginning of Parashat Ekeb. When it comes to our Misvot "Ben Adam La’Makom," the reward is given only in the next world. But the opening verses of Parashat Ekeb speak of the fulfillment of even the Misvot "Ben Adam La’habero," for which we are rewarded already here in this world.
We might add that, as already noted by the Ba’al Ha’turim (Rav Yaakob Ben Asher, Germany-Spain, 1269-1343), the word "Ekeb" in Gematria equals 172 – the same number of words as there are in the first version of the Ten Commandments (in Shemot, chapter 20). Perhaps, the word "Ekeb" in this verse alludes to the 172nd word in the Ten Commandments – meaning, the final word, which is "Le’re’acha" – "to your fellow." The Torah here is indicating to us that if we ensure to fulfill not only our obligations to G-d, but also our obligations "Le’re’acha," to our fellowman, then we will be worthy of all the great rewards described in this Parasha – because when it comes to interpersonal Misvot, we receive the "fruits" already in this world, and not only in the next world.