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Parshas Ki Savo - Vol. 4,
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 following story will help us appreciate the answer to this question. Amuka, located in the north of Israel, is the burial place of the Talmudic sage Rebbi Yonason ben Uziel. Amuka is famous for its mystical ability to help those who are longing to get married find their matches, and people travel there from around the world to pray for a spouse.
Although it is common for people to pray in Amuka with an intensity emanating from personal pain, somebody was once surprised to see a married woman praying there with great happiness. In her response to the onlooker’s curiosity about this, she taught a beautiful lesson. “I had a very difficult time with dating. Somebody finally suggested that I travel to Amuka, where I poured my heart out in prayer. Shortly thereafter, I was introduced to the man who is now my husband. I felt that if I came here to cry out from pain, it was only appropriate to return here to joyfully express my gratitude.”
The S’fas Emes explains that every person’s livelihood is dependent upon Hashem’s decree. Many times, this correlation is masked by 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 difficulty recognizing that his financial situation is beyond his control and precariously rests in Hashem’s hands. As diligently as he plows and plants 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 own hard work, he prays fervently that the rains should come in the proper amounts and at the proper times.
When the farmer’s prayers are answered and he sees the first “fruits” of his labors, it would be easy for him to take credit for the successful harvest. The Torah requires him to bring his first fruits to the Temple as a reminder that his success comes from Hashem, and he must express the appropriate gratitude for His kindness. One might incorrectly assume that mumbling a quick “thank you” under his breath suffices to fulfill this obligation. The Torah therefore teaches that in expressing appreciation, lip service is insufficient. The feelings of gratitude must be conveyed with the identical intensity with which one initially prayed. 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 desperately-needed salvation – 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, let us remember the lesson of the first-fruits and loudly call out our thanks with the same intensity with which we prayed in our time of trouble.
V’rau kol amei ha’aretz ki shem Hashem nikra alecha v’yaru mimeka (28:10)
There was once a gathering in the house of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. While the assembled people waited for his arrival, one of the Chassidic attendees related a story involving a dispute between two Chassidic Rebbes. One of the Rebbes, exasperated at his inability to convince the other to agree to his position, remarked, “How can you disagree with me when I own the tefillin of the holy Baal Shem Tov?” The second Rebbe, unimpressed, retorted that this proved nothing, as the tefillin were missing a letter from one of Hashem’s Divine names, rendering them invalid. At that point, the two Rebbes went to check the tefillin and indeed found them to be missing a letter and invalid. The storyteller concluded by stressing the degree of Divine Inspiration possessed by Chassidic Rebbes.
One of the non-Chassidic attendees sharply pointed out that the story was far from impressive since it also demonstrated that the illustrious founder of the movement had worn invalid tefillin. To this challenge, the storyteller replied that the tefillin were completely intact until the time of this episode, at which point one of the letters miraculously disappeared to fulfill the prediction of the Rebbe. Not to be outdone, the cynical listener pointed out that if that was the case, the Rebbe had transgressed the prohibition (Rashi 12:4) against erasing one of Hashem’s Divine names! A dispute then broke out regarding whether it is permitted to cause the erasing of Hashem’s name through miraculous means.
At this point, Rav Chaim entered the room and was asked for his opinion about the story. He replied that he didn’t know if the story was accurate, but he did know with complete confidence that it is impossible to miraculously erase one of Hashem’s names. If the tefillin were found to be deficient, they had always been so. He was then asked how the second Rebbe could have possibly known that the tefillin were invalid prior to examining them. Rav Chaim replied that this ability is easily attained and that he himself already possessed it at the age of six or seven.
Rav Chaim explained that Moshe blessed the Jewish people that if they act properly and observe the commandments, the nations of the world will see that the name of Hashem is called upon them, and they will fear and revere them. The Gemora in Megillah (16b) understands the concept of the name of Hashem being called upon them as referring to the tefillin, which contain an allusion to one of Hashem’s Divine names (Tosefos Berachos 6a), which are worn upon our heads. Therefore, any tefillin which don’t inspire the appropriate reverence must clearly be invalid!
V’rau kol amei ha’aretz ki shem Hashem nikra alecha v’yaru mimeka (28:10)
There is a legal dispute (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 31:2) regarding the wearing of tefillin on Chol HaMoed. Rav Yosef Karo writes that it is forbidden to wear tefillin on Chol HaMoed, while the Rema cites opinions that one is obligated to do so, adding that this was the prevalent custom in his region. The Paneiach Raza and the Maharshal bring a fascinating proof to support the latter opinion.
Moshe blessed the Jewish people that if they act properly and observe the commandments, the nations of the world will see that the name of Hashem is called upon them, and they will fear and revere them. The Gemora in Megillah (16b) understands the concept of the name of Hashem being called upon them as referring to tefillin. Tosefos (Berachos 6a) explains that the tefillin contain an allusion to “Sha-kai,” one of Hashem’s Divine names, with the “shin” represented by the letter “shin” that appears on the sides of the tefillin that is worn on one’s head.
The numerical value of “shin” is 300, which hints to the 300 days each year on which a person is obligated to wear tefillin. Subtracting the 52 Shabbosim on which a person is exempt from tefillin leaves 313 days. One is also exempt from wearing tefillin on four days of Pesach, two days of Shavuos, two days of Rosh Hashana, one day of Yom Kippur, and four days of Sukkos, for a total of 13. If a person doesn’t wear tefillin on Chol HaMoed, he will be left with too few remaining days. In other words, only if one wears tefillin every day of the year except for Shabbos and Yom Tov will he be left with a total of exactly 300 days to correspond to the “shin” on his tefillin!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Mishnah (Sotah 32a) refers to the statement (26:12-15) which a person makes to proclaim that he has properly observed the laws governing the separation and distribution of the tithes as “viduy ma’aser” – the “confession” of the tithes. Why is it given this name when it makes no reference to sin and represents a declaration that the farmer has acted properly? (Seforno; Tosefos Yom Tov, Mishnah Rishonah, and Tosefos Anshei Shem Maaser Sheini 5:10, Minchas Chinuch 607)
2) Each of the curses which were to be read at Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival is written in the present tense except for the curse (27:15) against one who will make a graven image, which is written in the future tense. Why is this curse different? (Niflaos Chadashos, K’Motzei Shalal Rav)
3) Why is the rebuke in Parshas Ki Savo written in the third person (Hashem will do – see e.g. 28:20) while that of Parshas Bechukosai uses the first person (I will do – see e.g. Vayikra 26:16)? (Rabbeinu Bechaye)
4) Moshe reminded (29:4) the people of the miracle that throughout their 40-year sojourn in the desert, “your garments (plural) didn’t wear out from on you, and your shoe (singular) didn’t wear out from on your foot.” Why did he change from the plural to the singular? (Taima D’Kra)
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