Say I look nice when I’m not
Touch my hair as you pass my chair
Little things mean a lot…”
“Little Things Mean a Lot” was a popular song, recorded by Kitty Kallen in 1954. In it, the singer says that she does not need diamonds or pearls. She appreciates the little things that her husband does for her that show her that he is always thinking of her.
Anyone who is, or has been, married knows this. The little everyday things we do for each other are more meaningful than the most lavish gifts. The big events and occasions only make sense when they are in the context of a commitment and an ongoing relationship.
In the Torah portion of Ekev, Moses says: “If only you will listen to and obey these laws.” In Hebrew, the word “Ekev” means “if only,” and can also mean “heel.”
Rashi says that we ought to do our best to be meticulous in keeping everything that G-d has commanded, down to the smallest and seemingly insignificant details. The “small” mitzvot — or the “heels,” the ones people normally trample on.
For example, many people make sure to attend synagogue on Yom Kippur, but unfortunately, after the fast is over, the crowds revert to a much more modest attendance. Somehow, people believe Yom Kippur is more important than the mitzva of daily prayer.
In this context, a small mitzva (or “heel”) is one that is not kept by the vast majority. But a teacher of mine once famously said, “All mitzvot are created equal.” If they were all commanded by Hashem, they should all be kept.
In a marriage, we must try our best every day, not merely on anniversaries and special occasions. Moses teaches us that the same is true of our relationship with G-d. It is important to keep an awareness every moment of every day, even in the seemingly little things.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)