Greatness in the Details
The Torah has many ways of implying different levels of importance with commandments. Some have the promise of long life or other blessings. Some have the warning of severe punishments, both physical and spiritual. But there is not a clear hierarchy.
When you get faced with a choice between two commandments, it often is not any easy decision. Which mitzvah weighs more? Which has more reward? Which brings me closer to God?
SOMETIMES GOD JUST HINTS
Some pathways to God are clear, like Kiddush, the commandment to sanctify the Sabbath. Take a cup of wine on Friday night and say a blessing, declaring the Sabbath as holy. Simple. Clear. Do it and you've fulfilled the will of the Almighty. You've sanctified the day and you're finished.
But so much of the Torah seems hazy, unclear. So much has been left up for the Sages to decipher. We are supposed to figure it out. God doesn't want to be so obvious all the time.
He wants us to come to some conclusions on our own. He wants us to make the effort in the relationship to understand Him and what He wants from us.
Similarly, a husband/wife doesn't want to have to spell everything out for their spouse. Imagine a wife who says, "Honey, our anniversary is in four days. Please get me a dozen roses, the new Nora Roberts novel, wrapped in pink wrapping paper, and a diamond necklace from Helzberg. I called to let them know you'll be picking it up." Or is it nicer for the husband to try and figure out what she wants, picking up on clues and understanding her?
The Sages say to be careful with small mitzvot like large mitzvot, because you don't know the reward that's in store. When looking at the array of mitzvot, to do, we might focus our attention on the "bigger" or more important mitzvot and neglect the "smaller" or less important mitzvot. The Sages are reminding us that even a tiny, insignificant-looking commandment is the will of the Almighty, and therefore has infinite reward.
We have no idea what's in store for us in the next world. We do know, however, that once we're there, we'll kick ourselves for not doing more while we were here.
Ekev means "because" in Hebrew, and it also means "heel." Rashi points out that the verse Deut. 7:12, "Because you listened, you will be rewarded..." implies that "because you listened to the commandments that you might have trampled with your heel" - e.g. the light, minor mitzvot.
The reward for a minor mitzvah is unimaginable. But you also get a special reward precisely because you were careful with something that was seemingly unimportant.
It's easy to deal with big problems and hugely important things. Anyone can see them and is compelled to want to deal with them. If your house is flooding, nobody sits around reading the newspaper. But when you take care of the details of serving God, when you seek to be precise and careful with small things that are meaningful to God, you show just how important the relationship is to you.
Sometimes a relationship is defined not by the big things, but by the small things.
NOTHING IS INSIGNIFICANT
Since the Almighty is infinite, it is illogical to consider any aspect of serving Him to be insignificant. By definition, every tiny detail of serving the Creator is infinite. Every tiny chip on a diamond makes a huge difference, because it's a tiny detail of something precious and expensive. All the more so, when dealing with a tiny detail of Godliness, every nuance is infinite.
Pick one tiny thing to do for someone else. Notice something small that he would want as a gift, or something minor you think he'd like done for him. Then notice the benefit to the overall relationship.