Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were the big things.” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
How often do we find ourselves complaining loudly about issues that seem insignificant in retrospect? Our closet having too many clothes, our phone not having enough charge, or our vacation being ruined by bad Wi-Fi. There is an entire genre of jokes, making fun of “first world problems.” Acknowledging how grateful we are for not having worse problems by putting our current issues in the context of more pressing global issues. Our irritations and nuisances tend to be trivial issues warranting no more than cursory attention.
In 1997 Dr Richard Carlson wrote a book called “Don’t sweat the small stuff…and it’s all, small stuff.” It became a cultural phenomenon for those seeking relaxation from life’s small annoyances and pet peeves. In that sense, there is a lot of truth to the maxim. However, there are some times when we should certainly sweat the small stuff.
At my sister’s Sheva Brachot, I heard a beautiful lesson in caring for one’s spouse. My cousin described how one day while on vacation, he had mentioned as an aside that the lights next door made it hard for him to sleep. Later that night when he came to bed, he noticed that his wife had left an eye mask out for him to make it easier for him to sleep. With no fanfare or special mention, this small gesture meant the world to him.
The small acts of kindness we do throughout the day permeate our relationships far greater than the grand gifts given occasionally. The constant mundane gestures, reminding our significant other that we are thinking of them and that we care, are worth infinitely more than massive gifts and luxurious vacations. All the little things ensure each of us of our value and keep the relationship from going stale. Sweating the small stuff makes a world of difference.
The name of a Parsha is meant to convey a lesson for the portion it represents. Out of all the words in the opening of this week’s Parsha, the word Ekev, meaning “because,” was chosen to be the name for the entire section we read. Beginning with “Vehaya ekev tishmaun…” translated as “And what will happen because (Ekev) of you listening to these laws, G-d will keep His promise…” Rashi’s explanation of the choice of words seems simple on the face of it but conveys a deep lesson for us in how to properly develop and nurture our relationships.
Rashi says that Ekev can also mean “heel” referring to those mitzvot that we would likely trample with our heels. Reading the explanation back into the verse it would read, G-d will keep His promises and shower you with blessings, because of the adherence of the simple mitzvot that otherwise would be trampled on and uncared for. The message of Rashi is that by continuously caring about even the most “minor” of the commandments we are bolstering our relationship with G-d and showing Him our level of commitment is ongoing and strong down to the last detail.
Looking deeply into those words we can see the power of sweating the small stuff. G-d is telling us it is not just about the Splendid Yom Kippur you came to, and the generous and charitable donation you gave, that brings you intimately connected to G-d. The “small” but constant mitzvot can bring you to an even higher plane. Let us treasure each little moment of connection as the world of a difference it really is.