Eikev is one of the sections of Moshe’s farewell speech. It opens וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן, אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה, וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֹתָם-וְשָׁמַר ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְךָ, אֶת-הַבְּרִית וְאֶת-הַחֶסֶד, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע, לַאֲבֹתֶיךָ – When you will listen to the laws; safeguard and perform them, Hashem will safeguard you, and uphold the covenant sworn to your fathers (7:12).
The Alshich points out the peculiarity of the word עֵקֶב – it is very infrequently found; in addition to which, it doesn’t even seem to change the basic message of “When you listen”, were it not to say עֵקֶב.
Further, it seems to be a conditional term, but this raises an issue – in Judaism, we do not perform our duties as labourers would, with the expectation of reward. We are meant to dedicate ourselves regardless. So how are we to understand the Torah seemingly telling us results of actions?
R’ Shlomo Ganzfried explains how the reward is not actually for the net result of the action performed.
The Gemara in Berachos 28a tells how R’ Zeira was taking a break from his studies, and left the study hall, and decided to sit on the steps outside, so that if a rabbi walked by, he could stand up out of respect and deference, gaining merit while being idle from learning.
The Torah compels and obligates anyone who witnesses an event to not withhold testimony. This also means that a witness can not be paid to testify. However, if someone is hired to investigate something, and they find evidence or the like, they can be still be paid, not violating the above obligation.
This is because they are not being paid for the testimony or presentation of evidence. The payment is for the groundwork and effort put in.
The same is true of the Torah’s affirmation of the reward. R Zeira could gain merit by showing his respect for the wrappings of a mitzva.
This is why it is specifically here that the word עֵקֶב – literally “heel” – appears here. The legwork, the walking, the effort are what matters, and that makes all the difference.