The first pasuk in our parasha, Eikev, contains the phrase, “v’haya eikev tishm’un eit hamishpatim ha’aleh.” There are a variety of classical approaches regarding its translation and interpretation.
Onkelos suggests, “And it will be in exchange [a quid pro quo] if you accept these laws.” In contrast, Rashi maintains the phrase refers to a specific set of laws, “If you will heed the minor commandments which one [usually] tramples with their heels [that is, which a person treats as being of minor importance].” The Ibn Ezra asserts that Eikev refers to schar b’achronah. As such, he would translate our expression as, “And it will be that the ultimate reward will accrue to you if you hearken to these laws.”
Closer to our own time, the Netziv takes a very different tack, explaining v’haya eikev tishm’un eit hamishpatim ha’aleh as referencing deep-level Torah analysis. He would, therefore, translate this phrase as, “And it will be if you engage in deep-level Torah study.” He focuses on the word tishm’un, as the source of his unique interpretation, noting that it is spelled with a grammatically unnecessary letter nun. This is significant, since the nine other times the word tishm’u appears in Chamishah Chumshei Torah it is without the letter nun.
In the Netziv’s opinion, the nun comes l’haktin, to make smaller, to inform us “that not everyone within the Jewish people could possibly have been involved in intensive Torah study since the [vast majority] were involved in war [and all it entailed]. Nonetheless, it was necessary for there to be people engaged in Talmud Torah [as this mitzvah was as significant as the actual fighting itself].”
As the Netziv makes clear in his subsequent glosses on our phrase, such intensive Torah study will lead directly to Hashem’s fulfillment of His promise to bestow chesed and brachot upon the Jewish people. As the Torah states: “The L-rd, your G-d, will keep for you the covenant and the kindness that He swore to your forefathers. And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your soil, your grain, your wine, and your oil, the offspring of your cattle and the choice of your flocks, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you. You shall be blessed above all peoples: There will be no sterile male or barren female among you or among your livestock. And the L-rd will remove from you all illness, and all of the evil diseases of Egypt which you knew, He will not set upon you” (Devarim 7:12-15).
May we witness the complete realization of this promise soon, and in our days. V’chane yihi ratzon.