In the Torah portion of parashat Eikev we find (Chapter 8, verse 1): “The entire commandment that I command you this day you shall keep to do, that you may live and multiply, and come and possess the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers.”
What is meant by the words, kol hamitzvah, ‘the entire commandment?’ Rashi on the verse offers two explanations: First he states, ‘this is to be understood according to its simple meaning.’ Meaning, ‘the entire commandment’ means just that: all the commandments are one unit, in the singular, and we are responsible to observe them all and not just a selection. But then Rashi provides a second explanation, a Midrashic explanation of these words ‘the entire commandment:’ He states that these words indicate that ‘If you have started a mitzvah, finish it, because a mitzvah is only called after the one who completes it.’ He provides several Biblical verses to back this idea up.
Why does Rashi not suffice with the first explanation? There is a principle in studying Rashi, that informs us that he brings a secondary reason only if something new can be understood; for example, if something about the simple explanation was unclear, he will cite a Midrashic approach to resolve the issue. What was lacking in the simple interpretation, that led him to cite a secondary, homiletical explanation?
Unquestionably, our covenant with Hashem is based on action, and upon our commitment to the entire Torah, to all the commandments, not on a pick and choose basis but ‘the entire commandment.’ At the same time however, the fact remains that there may be times when one is prevented from performing a particular commandment, or multiple commandments, due to circumstances beyond the individual’s control.
We must never underestimate the importance the performance of even one commandment…Sometimes it takes all our resolve just to be able to fulfill even one mitzvah properly; we may be under duress, or distracted, or there may be a situation preventing from us from completing our objective, not out of a lack of will but because of external, extenuating circumstances. In such a case it takes great fortitude to complete the task.
Rashi is teaching us that sometimes, to fulfill even one commandment properly, seeing it through from beginning to end, is so precious in Hashem’s eyes that it is considered as if we fulfilled ‘the entire commandment!’