If you don’t see this week’s issue by the end of the week, check http://parshapotpourri.blogspot.com which may be more up-to-date
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
Parshas Ki Savo
V’anisa v’amarta (26:5)
A farmer is required to bring the first ripened fruits of the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised to the Beis HaMikdash and present them to the Kohen as a sign of appreciation to Hashem for giving him a successful harvest. He must then recite a powerful declaration of gratitude over Hashem’s role in the miraculous course of our national history. Rashi quotes the Gemora in Sotah (32b), which states that this proclamation is to be made in a raised voice. As we are accustomed to recite the daily prayers silently and to perform most mitzvos in a normal voice, it is difficult to understand why the Torah stresses and specifically requires the farmer to make this statement in a loud voice.
The S’fas Emes explains that while the livelihood of every human is completely dependent upon Hashem’s decree, many times this correlation is masked by natural events, which make it appear that the person earned his income through his own creativity and perspiration. The farmer, on the other hand, has no problem recognizing that his entire financial situation is beyond his control and precariously rests in the Hands of Heaven. As diligently as he may plow and plant his land, he realizes that the success of each year’s crop depends upon the frequency and intensity of the rains, factors completely beyond his control. After putting in his best physical efforts, he then pursues spiritual avenues, praying daily with great intensity for Hashem to bring the rains in the proper amounts and at the proper times.
When his prayers are answered and he is able to see the first “fruits” of his labors, it would be very easy and natural for him to take credit for the successful harvest. It is for this reason that the Torah requires him to bring them to the Beis HaMikdash as a reminder that his success is ultimately dependent on Hashem, and he must express the appropriate gratitude for His kindness. One might assume, however, that it suffices to mutter a quick “thank you” under his breath to fulfill this obligation and to quickly return home.
The Torah therefore teaches that in expressing appreciation, it is insufficient to merely pay lip service. The feelings of gratitude must be conveyed with the identical intensity with which one prayed and initially asked for the request. Just as the farmer screamed out with his entire heart beseeching Hashem to bless him with a bountiful harvest, so too must he express his thanks with the identical raised voice. So many times we cry out to Hashem from the depths of our hearts for a miraculous salvation which we need so desperately – to bear children, to find our spouse, to recover from illness, or for a source of livelihood. When our prayers are answered and the salvation comes, it behooves us to remember the lesson of the first-fruits and to loudly call out our thanks with the same feeling and intensity with which we prayed in our time of trouble.
V’amarta lifnei Hashem Elokecha biarti hakodesh min ha’bayis v’gam n’sativ l’levi ul’ger l’yasom ul’almana k’chol mitzvas’cha asher tzivisani lo avarti mi’mitzvosecha v’lo shachachti (26:13)
There is a three-year cycle which governs the tithes that one is obligated to take from his crops. In the year following the conclusion of a three-year cycle, one has until the day before Pesach to deliver all of his tithes to their respective destinations. On the last day of Pesach, he recites a passage (26:13-15) in which he declares that he has properly observed the laws governing the separation and distribution of the tithes. The Mishnah in Sotah (32a) refers to this section as viduy maaser – the “confession” of the tithes. It is difficult to understand in what way it is considered a confession when it makes no reference to sin but rather represents a declaration that one has acted properly.
Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev and Rav Moshe Leib of Sassov offer an innovative explanation of one of the lines from the Mussaf prayers for Rosh HaShana. They begin by noting an interesting difference between the proper attitude toward mitzvos and sins. With regard to a person’s sins, it is preferable to remember them constantly (see Tehillim 51:5), so as to fully repent for them and to be careful not to repeat them. Regarding mitzvos, however, it is advisable not to remember and dwell on one’s successes, as this may cause a person to become haughty or complacent, but rather to leave them in the past and always focus on future growth and accomplishments.
At the end of the section known as Zich’ronos (Rememberances), we say ki zocheir kol ha’nishkachos ata – You (Hashem) remember all that which is forgotten. In other words, Hashem remembers whatever we forget and “forgets” whatever we remember. If a person acts properly, remembering his sins and forgetting his mitzvos, then Hashem will overlook his misdeeds and focus on recalling his accomplishments. If, however, the person forgets his sins and arrogantly dwells on his mitzvos, then Hashem will meticulously remember each sin while overlooking all of his good deeds!
Based on this explanation, the Satmar Rebbe suggests that in reciting the declaration concerning the distribution of tithes, the person recounts in detail how he acted properly and adhered to all of the relevant laws. In doing so, he is remembering and dwelling upon the mitzvos which he performed over the previous three years, something which Hashem in general prefers that we not do. In this sense, the proclamation that he has behaved properly over the previous three years is none other than a confession!
V’ra’u kol amei ha’aretz ki shem Hashem
nikra alecha v’yaru mimeka (28:10)
Moshe Rabbeinu blessed the Jewish people that if they act properly and fulfill the commandments, then all of the nations of the earth will see that the name of Hashem is called upon us and they will fear and revere us. The Gemora in Megillah (16b) understands the reference to the name of Hashem being called upon us as referring to the tefillin, which contain an allusion to one of Hashem’s Divine names (see Tosefos Berachos 6a d.h. eilu), which are worn upon our heads.
The Vilna Gaon was once lodging at an inn when he heard loud cries and screams for help coming from the innkeeper’s room. Although the Gaon was in the middle of the morning prayers, he quickly ran to the aid of a fellow Jew. He threw open the innkeeper’s door and discovered a non-Jew mercilessly beating him. The attacked looked up at the door, and upon seeing the Gaon wearing his tallis and tefillin, was overcome with terror and promptly fainted.
After pulling himself together and recovering from the shock of the incident, the innkeeper expressed his tremendous gratitude to the Gaon for coming to his rescue. He added that while he was certainly appreciative, he was also curious as to the Gaon’s “magic weapon” which had inspired such fear in the heart of his attacker. The Gaon replied by citing the aforementioned Gemora and explaining that the sight of him adorned in his tefillin had caused the non-Jew to faint. The innkeeper asked for clarification, as he himself had been wearing his tefillin prior to the attack, but they had clearly proven ineffective.
The Gaon pointed out that the Gemora uses a peculiar expression. It doesn’t interpret the verse as referring to the tefillin which are on one’s head but rather to the tefillin which are in one’s head. He explained that merely placing the tefillin on one’s body is insufficient. Rather, one must contemplate the message of the portions contained therein until they are internalized. While the innkeeper had not yet done so, the Vilna Gaon was clearly on such a level, and when the non-Jew perceived his spiritual loftiness, he was overcome with dread to the point of fainting – exactly as promised by the Gemora!
V’hashiv’cha Hashem Mitzrayim ba’aniyos b’derech asher amarti l’cha lo sosif od lir’osa v’hismakartem sham l’oivecha l’avadim v’lishfachos v’ein koneh (28:68)
This verse concludes the fearsome curses and punishments outlined by Moshe Rabbeinu for one who refuses to obey Hashem’s commandments. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh (28:47) questions why there was a need to repeat the threats, after they are already described in gruesome detail in Parshas Bechukosai? Further, why don’t the terrible curses described in Parshas Ki Savo conclude with words of consolation as do (Vayikra 26:44-45) those mentioned in Parshas Bechukosai?
The Ohr HaChaim HaHakadosh answers by noting that the curses detailed in Parshas Bechukosai are written in the plural, while those in our parsha are expressed in the singular. He suggests that the punishments mentioned previously are national in nature and will only transpire if the entire nation engages in inappropriate activities. It is for this reason that they are written in the plural, as they are specifically applicable to the nation. Our parsha, on the other hand, is expressed in the singular, as it addresses individuals who sin, even at a time when the nation as a whole is behaving properly.
With this distinction, we now understand that the rebuke contained in Parshas Bechukosai ends with words of encouragement because it pertains to the entire nation, and no matter how far they may stray, Klal Yisroel is guaranteed a continuation in the merit of Hashem’s covenant with our forefathers. Any individual within the community, however, isn’t as fortunate. As our parsha discusses the case of the individual who sins, it doesn’t conclude with consolation, as there is no such assurance for individuals.
The Alter from Kelm uses this concept to explain an apparent contradiction regarding the nature of Rosh HaShana. On the one hand, it is legally considered a festive day, on which one dresses his finest and eats enjoyable meals. On the other hand, the tone of the day is serious, and Hallel isn’t recited due to the fear and trembling which accompany the knowledge that the books of the living and dead are open on this day. The Alter explains that as a nation and as a community, we are confident in Hashem’s mercy and therefore conduct ourselves with joy and optimism, but each individual is filled with dread and terror at the recognition that he has no such guarantee. The leaders of the Mussar movement write that nevertheless, one who attaches himself to the community and is needed by others will share in their collective merits and will be inscribed for a year of health and happiness.
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (26:2) that bikkurim (first fruits) were brought from the seven species for which the land of Israel was praised (8:8). As most of these species are fruits, why does the Torah refer to them (26:2) as the first fruits of the ground (me’reishis kol pri ha’adama) and not more precisely as the first fruits of the tree? (Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 15:16, Mishmeres Ariel, K’Motzei Shalal Rav)
2) The Torah writes (26:3) that one shall bring his bikkurim to the Kohen and say, “I proclaim today to Hashem your G-d…” Why does he refer to your G-d, thereby excluding himself from the community, instead of our G-d, and in what way is this different than the question of the wicked son in the Haggada, for which he is punished for excluding himself? (Rabbeinu Bechaye)
3) The Mishnah in Pesochim (116a) rules that the core of the Haggada Shel Pesach consists of expounding upon the verses which pertain to national history in the section recited by one bringing bikkurim to the Beis HaMikdash. The Mishnah states that one should begin from (26:5) Arami oveid avi – an Aramean attempted to destroy my father – and continue discussing each verse until completing the entire section. Why do we expound upon the first four verses in this section (26:5-8) but omit a discussion of the final verse (25:9), which gives praise to Hashem for bringing us to the land of Israel and giving us the Beis HaMikdash? (Rav Moshe Shapiro quoted in Haggada Shel Pesach HaLaylah HaZeh and in the Introduction to MiMa’amakim)
4) In the declaration made by one bringing bikkurim to the Beis HaMikdash, he must thank Hashem (26:9) for bringing us to this place (the Beis HaMikdash) and giving us the land of Israel. Why isn’t the verse written in chronological order, as the Beis HaMikdash was built long after the Jews entered and conquered the land of Israel? (K’Motzei Shalal Rav, Rav Shmuel Dovid Wolkin, Taam V’Daas, Mishmeres Ariel, Eitz HaChaim, M’rafsin Igri)
5) The Torah states (28:47) that the terrible curses described throughout the parsha will come as a result of not serving Hashem with gladness. If this is indeed such a terrible sin, why is there no commandment to do so? (Yad Av)
6) In mentioning (29:4) that the shoes of the Jewish people miraculously didn’t wear out during their sojourn in the wilderness, the Torah states explicitly that the Jews wore shoes during their travels through the desert. How can this be resolved with Rashi’s earlier comment (8:4), in which he writes that the feet of the Jews miraculously didn’t swell during their travels in the desert as is customary for those who walk barefoot? (Tzofnas Paneiach, Torah L’Daas Vol. 10)
© 2006 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Shema Yisrael Torah Network