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 - Vol. 3,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
V’anisa v’amarta (26:5)
A farmer is required to bring bikkurim, the first ripened fruits of the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised, to the Beis HaMikdash. There he presents them to a Kohen as a sign of gratitude to Hashem for giving him a successful harvest. He then recites a declaration of appreciation for Hashem’s role in Jewish history. Rashi writes that this proclamation is made in a raised voice. Why does the Torah require the farmer to make this statement in a loud voice?
The Chanukas HaTorah notes that the farmer bringing his first-fruits begins his review of national history by noting that an Aramean (Lavan) attempted to destroy my ancestor (Yaakov). Rashi explains that this was Lavan’s intention when he set out to pursue the fleeing Yaakov, but Hashem was aware of his malicious idea and warned him in a dream against pursuing his plan (Bereishis 31:23-24). Although Lavan was thwarted from executing his evil scheme, Hashem punishes non-Jews not only for their wicked deeds, but also for their thoughts.
The Gemora in Berachos (31a) derives from Chana’s prayer that one must pray quietly. The Gemora (Berachos 24b) explains that a person who prays loudly demonstrates a lack of faith in Hashem’s ability to recognize the intentions of his heart and to hear him if he whispers. Included in the declaration made by the farmer is a public confirmation that Hashem knows not only the words that a person speaks, but even the thoughts that run through his mind. By proclaiming Hashem’s knowledge of the unspoken, there is no longer any fear that the farmer will be viewed as questioning Hashem’s ability to hear us when we speak quietly, and he may therefore express his gratitude in an appropriately loud voice!
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 governing the tithes that a person must separate from his crops. In the year following the conclusion of this cycle, a farmer 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 declaring 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 the “confession” of the tithes. In what way is a declaration that one has acted properly which contains no reference to sin considered a confession?
Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev points out 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 (Tehillim 51:5) to fully repent for them and to be careful not to repeat them. Regarding mitzvos, however, it is advisable not to dwell on one’s successes, which 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 Zichronos (Remembrances) section of the Rosh Hashana Mussaf prayers, we say Ki zocher kol hanishkachos atah – You (Hashem) remember everything that is forgotten. In other words, Hashem remembers whatever we forget and “forgets” what we remember. If a person acts properly, remembering his sins and forgetting his mitzvos, Hashem will overlook his misdeeds and focus on recalling his accomplishments. If, however, the person unremorsefully forgets his sins and arrogantly dwells on his mitzvos, Hashem will meticulously remember each sin while overlooking his good deeds.
Based on this explanation, the Satmar Rebbe suggests that in reciting the declaration concerning the distribution of the tithes, the farmer recounts in detail how he acted properly and observed all of the relevant laws. In doing so, he is dwelling upon the mitzvos that he performed over the previous three years, something which Hashem generally prefers that we not do. In this sense, the proclamation that he has behaved properly is in reality a form of a confession!
V’haya im lo tishma b’kol Hashem Elokecha lishmor la’asos es kol mitzvosav v’chukosav asher anochi m’tzav’cha hayom u’ba’u alecha kol haklalos haeileh v’hisigucha (28:15)
Parshas Ki Savo is commonly referred to as the parsha of “tochacha” – rebuke. It is full of frightening threats of punishment to be meted out to those who refuse to observe the Torah’s laws. It is interesting to note that this is not the first parsha which contains a lengthy rebuke. Parshas Bechukosai is similarly filled with a terrifying list of punishments which will befall those who fail to observe the mitzvos. This raises two questions. Why was there was a need to repeat the threats after they were already described in gruesome detail in Parshas Bechukosai? Further, why don’t the curses described in our parsha conclude with words of consolation as do those in Parshas Bechukosai (Vayikra 26:44-45)?
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh 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. For this reason, they are written in the plural. Our parsha is expressed in the singular, as it addresses individuals who sin even while 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. No matter how far they may stray, the Jewish nation is guaranteed a continued existence in the merit of Hashem’s covenant with our forefathers. Each individual within the community isn’t as fortunate. Since our parsha discusses the case of the individual who sins, it doesn’t conclude with words of consolation, as they have no such assurance.
The Alter of Kelm uses this concept to resolve an apparent contradiction regarding the nature of Rosh Hashana. On the one hand, it is considered a festive day, on which we dress in our finest clothes and eat enjoyable meals. On the other hand, the tone of the day is solemn. Hallel isn’t recited due to the fear which accompanies the knowledge that the books of life and death are open on this day. The Alter explains that as a nation, we are confident in Hashem’s mercy and conduct ourselves with optimism. At the same time, each individual is filled with dread at the recognition that he has no such guarantee.
As the Day of Judgment approaches, we may find comfort in the message of the Alter. If we live in our own vacuums, we will be judged on our own merits in less than a month, a scary thought. However, our Rabbis teach that if we affiliate ourselves with a community, becoming part of our synagogues and volunteering to help with communal projects and organizations, we will share in their collective merits. As a result, we will enjoy an inscription for a year of health, happiness, and blessing!
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The section (26:1-11) detailing the laws governing bikkurim contains every letter in the Hebrew alphabet except for one. Which letter is missing, and why? (Baal HaTurim 26:4)
2) The Gemora in Bava Kamma (92a) teaches that the rich brought their bikkurim to the Temple in baskets made of gold and silver, while the poor placed their fruits in reed baskets made from willow branches. The Kohanim gave back the expensive baskets to the wealthy, while keeping those brought by the poor. Since the rich farmers could much more easily afford to part with their baskets than the poor, wouldn’t it have made more sense to do just the opposite? (Darkei Mussar)
3) The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 180:5) that a person should cover any knives on the table when reciting Birkas HaMazon. The Mishnah Berurah (180:11) explains that the table is considered like an Altar, and the Torah (27:5) forbids the use of iron in building the Altar. Why is a person permitted to have leavening or honey on his table, when the Torah forbids (Vayikra 2:11) them to be used on the Altar? (Torah Temimah Shemos 20:22, M’rafsin Igri Parshas Yisro)
4) The Gemora in Taanis (8b) derives from 28:8 that blessing is only found in something which is hidden from view. Items and good news which are publicly flaunted are subject to being damaged by an ayin hara (evil eye). How does this concept work, as if a person deserves something good, how can another person’s jealousy cause it to be taken away? (Siach Chaim pg. 237-9)
5) 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 they wore shoes during their travels through the desert. How can this be resolved with Rashi’s earlier comment (8:4) that the feet of the Jews miraculously didn’t swell during their travels in the desert as is customary for those who walk barefoot? (Tzafnas Paneiach, Chavatzeles HaSharon 8:4, Torah L’Daas Vol. 10)
© 2008 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 email@example.com
Shema Yisrael Torah Network