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Parshas Ki Savo - Vol. 10, Issue 46
Compiled by Oizer Alport
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.
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.
Parshas Ki Savo is commonly referred to as the parsha of "tochacha" - rebuke. It is full of frightening threats of unimaginable punishment to be meted out to those who brazenly 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 terrible curses described in our parsha conclude with words of consolation as do those mentioned 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, 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. 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, however, 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 legally 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 and trembling which accompany 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 joy and optimism. At the same time, each individual is filled with dread and terror 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.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) A farmer is required to bring bikkurim (first fruits) to the Temple (26:2). The Gemora in Bava Kamma (92a) teaches that the rich brought their bikkurim 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. As 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)
2) The Mishnah in Pesachim (116a) rules that the core of the Haggadah Shel Pesach consists of expounding upon the verses (26:5-9) which pertain to national history in the section recited by a person bringing bikkurim (first fruits) to the Temple. The Mishnah teaches 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 4 verses in this section but omit a discussion of the final verse, which gives praise to Hashem for bringing us to the land of Israel and giving us the Beis HaMikdash? (Haggadah Shel Pesach HaLaylah HaZeh)
3) 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)
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