Eikev - One Small Change

Every commandment that I command you this day you shall keep to do, you may live and multiply, and come and possess the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers.
כָּל הַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם תִּשְׁמְרוּן לַעֲשׂוֹת לְמַעַן תִּחְיוּן וּרְבִיתֶם וּבָאתֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם אֶת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע ה" לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם
Dvarim 8:1
 Asks the Kli Yakar, why does the verse begin in the singular (אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ) and then end in the plural ( וּרְבִיתֶם וּבָאתֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם)? Why the switch?

Power of the Tzaddik
Says the Kli Yakar, the Tzaddik has a special role in this world. His unique level and stature make a difference so that his actions change the balance of things, and can impact the fate of the world. 

Yet we know the unique abilities of the Tzaddik and how this can influence the world. But what does this contrast of singular to plural mean to us?

Power of the Individual
Continues the Kli Yakar, when an individual does tshuvah, not only does the individual change but the whole world changes. I suggest that tshuvah can be a profound act like changing from non-religious to completely religious, or even for a religious person to give greater attention to the performance of mitzvot. This can be realized by studying and learning how to carry out a particular mitzvah much better, or even applying greater concentration in prayer.

But how does this action of the individual impact the entire world?

The Butterfly Effect
How does the behavior and changes by just one person have the power to impact the entire world? This, I believe, is expressed well in the theory of the butterfly effect. Essentially this theory suggests that when a butterfly flaps it's wings on one side of the world, a hurricane starts on the other side of the world. This is just as mind-boggling. How does the subtle actions of one creature on one side of the planet, impact the rest of the world?

The movement of the butterfly wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, but it starts a chain of events: moving pollen through the air, which causes a gazelle to sneeze, which triggers a stampede of gazelles, which raises a cloud of dust, which partially blocks the sun, which alters the atmospheric temperature, which ultimately alters the path of a hurricane on the other side of the world.

This is same as the individual who makes a change in his life, does tshuvah, commits himself to improving his performance of mitzvah, raises his concentration in prayer. This small change ignites a chain of events in the world that can have global impact we don't expect.

Just One Mitzvah
The Kli Yakar also observes the verse has another interesting wording:
Every commandment that I command you

כָּל הַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ     
Why does it say every commandment (every mitzvah) in the singular? Why not say every one of the commandments (mitzvot)? There is an answer in Mesechet Sanhedrin:
What is the meaning of Amen?
(When one responds ‘Amen’ after a benediction, how does it suggest ascent thereto and the acceptance of Hashem's yoke?)
R. Hanina said: G-d, faithful, King (אמן is an abbreviation of קל מלך נאמן)
Therefore hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth without measure: Resh Lakish said: [It means] for him who leaves undone even a single statute.(Giving חק, translated ‘measure’, its usual meaning. Maharsha softens the severity of this statement by referring it to one whose evil deeds would be exactly counterbalanced by good deeds — in which case he would be saved from Gehinom — had he but fulfilled one more precept. But R. Johanan observed that even this is too harsh.) R. Johanan said to him: It is not pleasing to their Master (Israel's) that you say thus to them. But [say], who has not studied even a single statute (But the study of a single statute saves one from Gehinom).

Sanhedrin 111A (Soncino Edition)

The study of a single mitzvah can save a person from the fate of Gehinom. How? What is the significance? The Kli Yakar explains that this comes from the concept of Mitzvah Goreret Mitzvah, the performance of one mitzvah brings you to the performance of another. As we have already seen, how the small actions of one person can impact the world for the good, it is not surprising to see how the study of just a single statute can save one from Gehinom. 

This is why the verse uses the singular, showing the power of just one mitzvah.

One Mitzvah Leads to Another
How does one mitzvah lead to the performance of another?
The Kli Yakar explains this concept in the Torah portion of Shlach in the section about techelet and Tzitzit.
Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue [wool] on the fringe of each corner.
דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת עַל כַּנְפֵי בִגְדֵיהֶם לְדֹרֹתָם וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת
Bamidbar 15:38

Asks The Kli Yakar, how can one be reminded of all the mitzvot simply by looking at a single blue thread (techelet)?
Explains The Kli Yakar that the mitzvot are like a piece of clothing, as it says in Kohelet: 
At all times, let your garments be white, and let oil not be wanting on your head.
Kohelet 9:8

Rashi explains the significance of the words "At all times, let your garments be white", meaning "Prepare yourself at all times with mitzvot, so that if you die today, you will enter in peace. And Shlomo likened this to a man whom the king invited for a day of feasting, without setting a time for him. If he is wise or clever, he will immediately launder his garments, and bathe, and anoint himself. So did our Rabbis expound it in Shabbat 153a."

Yet Kohelet is referring a full piece of clothing, while verse in Shlach is referring to just a single blue thread! A single thread is not enough to cover a person! 

However 'clothing of soul' does not work like that, rather in matters of the soul even a single thread is enough to provide covering. This is as we saw in Sanhedrin that when one's fate is held in the balance, the fulfillment of just one more mitzvah can make the difference.

Explains The Kli Yakar, this comes out of the principle that a Mitzvah begets another Mitzvah. How? 

When one performs a single mitzvah, he has the power, the potential, to perform all the mitzvot. Even though this was not actually translated to action, he is accredited with as if he fulfilled all the mitzvot.

Power of the Blue Thread
This is the power, the underlying secret meaning, of the blue thread, techelet. For by virtue of a single thread, we are reminded of all the mitzvot of Hashem, and thus a complete piece of clothing is created for the soul, out of a single thread. And one is not put to burial naked (since he has mitzvot) unless he is like Adam, who was commanded with the observance of just one mitzvah, which he lost, and was left naked (bereft of the mitzvah).

So if by virtue of a single thread, man can come to profound action, this is the meaning of the commandment for doing techelet. Concludes The Kli Yakar, this is one of the most fundamental and underlying principles of the Torah.

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