Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 11   No. 46

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Parshas Ki Savo

The B'rachos and the K'lalos
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)

To resolve the Torah's change of expression from "And these shall stand to bless the people", to "And these shall stand on the curse", the K'li Yakar explains that whereas the blessings come directly from G-d, the curses come indirectly. He hides His Face, and the curses come by themselves, as the Pasuk writes in Eichah (3:38) "Evil does not emanate from Hashem". In similar vein, Chazal have said, Hashem does not associate His Name with punishment, and the first example of this in the Torah is in connection with the creation, where the Pasuk writes "And G-d called the light (which is symbolical of good) 'day', and the darkness He called 'night' ".

Furthermore, he remarks, the curses are written outright, whereas the blessings are merely hinted by means of inference. And he ascribes this to a number of factors. First and foremost, he says, the blessings are hidden, because, unlike the curses, which apply exclusively to this world, the blessings are primarily reserved for the World to Come, which is likewise hidden from us. The reward that we receive in this world is merely the fruits, which Hashem grants us as a means to perform more Mitzvos with which to earn an even greater reward in the World to Come.

In his third answer, the K'li Yakar explains that the blessings are hidden because they are incorporated in the curses. After all, he says, the chief objective of the curses is for the fear of the terrible calamity that will befall us to cause us to mend our ways and "turn away from evil and do good", transforming the curses into blessings.


The Torah lists eleven basic curses (see Rashi, Pasuk 24) representing the letters 'Vav' 'Hey' from Hashem's four-letter Name, as we will now explain.

The Name 'Kah' (also half of the four-letter Name) denotes the Midas ha'Din, as is evident from many places, including the Pesukim in Tehilim "Yasor yisrani Kah ... " and "Ashrei ha'gever asher teyasrenu Kah" (118:18 & 94:12, resp.). It therefore transpires that the 'Vav' and the 'Hey' (the remaining two letters of Hashem's full Name) denote the Midas Rachamim, as Rabeinu Bachye explains (commenting on the Pasuk in Beshalach 17:16, "Ki Yad al Keis Kah"). G-d originally intended to create the world with the Name Kah, to run it with the Midas ha'Din (as the Navi writes in Yeshayah [26:4]) "Ki be'Kah, Hashem Tzur Olamim" ('Because using the Name Kah, G-d formed the worlds'). But then He saw that the world would not survive unless He added the 'Vav' 'Hey' of Midas Rachamim.

Consequently, not only the blessings, but also the curses, are a manifestation of Hashem's Midas Rachamim, inasmuch as when they fall due, G-d does not give vent to His anger and send them all in one go, but little by little, in a way that the curses terminate, but we survive. This concept is further enhanced by what we wrote in the opening two paragraphs, where we discussed the restricted nature of the curses, and it is for the same reason that both the Tochachah in Behukosai and the one in this Parshah, begin with a 'Vav' and end with a 'Hey'.

Talking of the Tochachah in this Parshah, the Roke'ach points out that (bearing in mind that the numerical value of the four-letter Name of Hashem denoting Chesed, is 26, and that there are 676 words in the Tochachah), the Tochachah contains that Name twenty-six times. Now 26 x 26 = 676 (the epitome of Chesed), which is also the numerical value of the word 'ro'os' (evils), and David Hamelech wrote in Tehilim (34:20) "Many are the evils that threaten a Tzadik, but Hashem saves him from all of them".

It is exactly as the K'li Yakar has said. As devastating as the curses of Hashem might appear on the surface, they are administered with a profound love of K'lal Yisrael, and their intention is, to bring not death, but life.


Both the I'bn Ezra and the S'forno explain the common factor that incorporates these eleven curses as being the fact that they are sins that are generally performed in secret. Interestingly, the Torah writes this specifically by only two of them, the K'li Yakar observes, by Avodah-Zarah (where it writes "ve'som be'seiser") and by Lashon ha'Ra ("Arur makeh re'eihu ba'saser"), but not by the others. And he attributes this to the fact that these two sins embody all the Mitzvos, the former, the Mitzvos between man and G-d, the latter, those between man and man. In fact, this idea is also expressed in the six Zechiros, where the Torah instructs us to remember how we angered G-d in the desert (a reference to the sin of the Golden Calf, according to the commentaries) and the sin of Miriam (which refers to the sin of Lashon ha'Ra).


The final curse, which covers the entire spectrum of Mitzvos, refers to someone who learns Torah she'lo li'Sh'moh, the K'li Yakar explains. He studies Torah so as to boast his knowledge, but not with the intention of fulfilling what he has learnt. This too, conforms to the pattern of secret sins, as is clear from Chazal, who explain how even the Angels were fooled, following the destruction of the second Beis-Hamikdash. The Gemara in Bava Metzi'a (85a) explains how neither the Chachamim, nor the Nevi'im nor the Mal'achei ha'Shareis could explain why the Beis-Hamikdash had been destroyed, until Hashem Himself explained that it was because they had forsaken His Torah.

What Chazal mean, explains the K'li Yakar, is that on the surface, the people studied Torah diligently, to the extent that none of the above could determine the cause of the secularism that subsequently prevailed. And it needed Hashem Himself to inform them that the Torah-learning, for all its intensity, had been wrongly motivated, and that the curse "Arur asher lo yakim es Divrei ha'Torah ha'Zos" had therefore taken effect. Not only is studying Torah worthless unless one is willing to put into practice all of its teachings. It is subject to "Arur!"

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Parshah Pearls

When a Ger Brings Bikurim

" ... and you will say to him (the Kohen) I declare today to Hashem your G-d that I came to the land which G-d swore to our fathers to give to us" (26:3).

Based on this Pasuk, the Rosh cites the Mishnah in Bikurim (1:2), which rules that a Ger brings Bikurim but does not recite the Parshah - because he cannot say 'la'Avoseinu'.

Regarding Tefilah, on the other hand, we rely on the Yerushalmi, which permits a Ger to say 'Elokeinu v'Elokei Avoseinu', since they are considered children of Avraham Avinu, who is called the father of a multitude of nations (as is hinted in the acronym of his name Avraham - 'Av Hamon [Goyim]).

See also 'Back to the Ger', Pasuk 11.


Sometimes Loud, Sometimes Quiet

"And you shall raise your voice and say ... " (26:5).

The Rosh observes that the Parshah of Bikurim was read in a loud voice because the Torah writes "ve'oniso ve'omarto", whereas that of Viduy Ma'aser (which follows it) was not, because the Torah writes "ve'omarto" (without "ve'oniso'). And the reason for the distinction is plain. The Parshah of Bikurim comprises thanks to Hashem, whose praises deserve to be sung loud. Viduy Ma'aser, on the other hand, whose title suggests that it is a confession (see Seforno), and a confession is something that one does discreetly, as the Halachah demands. In any event, its contents comprise self-praise, and that too, is best done with discretion.


Good Times

"And you shall rejoice with all the good that Hashem ... gave you" (28:11).

It is from this Pasuk, the Rosh explains, that the Gemara in Pesachim (36b) confines the time that one reads the Parshah of Bikurim to the period between Shavu'os and Succos, because that is the Bikurim period. Indeed, Shavu'os is called 'Yom ha'Bikurim' because all fruit and crops ripen during this period.

From Succos until Chanukah however, one brings Bikurim, but does not read the Parshah (because one cannot say "me'reishis p'ri ho'adomoh", since it no longer falls under the category of 'Reishis'). From Chanukah and onwards, one does not even bring one's Bikurim to the Beis Hamikdash, because by then, there is generally nothing left in the field, even for the wild animal (a vital ruling crucial to the bringing of Bikurim).


Back to the Ger

"And you shall rejoice with all the good ... you, the Levi and the Ger ... " (26:11).

How does the Ger fit in here, asks the Rosh? On the one hand, Bikurim are given exclusively to the Kohen, whilst on the other, a Ger is not obligated to bring Bikurim, because the Torah writes (in Pasuk 2) "from your land", to exclude Geirim, who have no portion in the land?

Neither can the Pasuk be referring to Yisro and his descendants, who received Doshno of Yericho as an inheritance, because once the Beis-Hamikdash was built, that portion was handed over to whoever gave up his current inheritance on which to build it (and Bikurim only apply in the Beis-Hamikdash [see Rashi Beha'aloscha 10:32]).

The Rosh answers with the Mishnah in Bikurim (1:2) which lists a Ger (whose mother is not a Yisre'elis, even though his father is) among those who bring Bikurim but who do not read the Parshah (see opening Pearl).

When he Davens however, he changes the wording from 'Elokeinu v'Elokei Avoseinu' to 'Hashem Elokei Avos Yisrael', unless he is the Chazan, in which case he recites the regular text (refer again to opening Pearl)

The Yerushalmi however, cites a Beraisa where Rebbi Yehudah rules that a Ger brings Bikurim and reads the Parshah, because the Torah in Vayeira writes "because I appointed you (Avraham) the father of a multitude of nations (the acronym of Avraham's name). Until now you were the father of Aram (Naharayim [the acronym of Avram]); from now on you will be the father of all the nations".

And Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi rules there like Rebbi Yehudah.


With All Your Heart and with all Your Soul

" ... and you shall keep them and do them with all your heart and with all your soul" (26:16).

"with all your heart", the Rosh explains, means that when you Daven before Hashem, you are not permitted to divide your heart into two, one that is directed towards Hashem, the other, that is busy with other matters.

Whereas "be'Chol Nafsh'cha" means that your love should not cease even at the time that He takes away your soul (irrespective of how He does so). Like the story of Rebbi Akiva, whom the Romans took into custody for studying Torah, and whom they tortured to death as the time to recite the Sh'ma fell due.

Even as they raked his flesh with metal combs, he began to recite the Sh'ma. 'Rebbi', his Talmidim asked him, 'did you not teach us that someone who is mitzta'er is exempt from K'ri'as Sh'ma?'

'My entire life I was 'mitzta'er' on this Pasuk ("be'chol Nafsh'cha"); now that the opportunity has arrived to put it into practice, shall I notmake the most of it!'

What Rebbi Akiva appears to have meant was that quite to the contrary, it was not at that moment that he was mitzta'er, but throughout his life, as he longed to be able to fulfill the words of the Pasuk. Now that that long-awaited moment had finally arrived, the spiritual joy that he felt dispelled the physical anguish that normally accompanied such torture, so that he no longer belonged to the category of mitzta'er.

Based on a Pasuk in Tehilim (17:14), Rebbi Chanina in the Medrash Tanchuma explains that when people die for the Torah that was given from the hand of Hashem, others assume that they must be grave sinners. What they do not realize is the size of their portion in the World to Come, and the immense good that is stored for them there. Neither do they know how much goodness awaits their descendants after them, all on account of the Kidush Hashem that they created with their deaths.


Tit for Tat

"es Hashem he'emarto ha'yom'Hu he'emircho ha'yom lih'yos lo le'am segulah" (26:17/18).

The words "he'emarto" and "he'emircha" have many meanings, the Rosh points out. The Gemara in B'rachos (6a) translates the Pasuk as "You carved Me out (gave Me a special status), by reciting the Sh'ma); I will carve you out, as the Pasuk in Shmuel 2 (7:23) says "And who is like Your people Yisrael, one (a unique) nation in the land!"

"He'emarto" can also be an expression of swapping, in which case the Pasuk is saying that Hashem took His cue from Yisrael, who swapped all other gods in favor of Hashem. So He did the same. He swapped all other nations in favor of Yisrael, to be a treasured nation. And it is in this context that the Pasuk writes in Tehilim (94:4) "yis'amru kol po'alei oven" - which means that sinners constantly switch their stance and cannot keep their word.

Yet others translate it as 'a branch', which is high on the tree, and the Pasuk means that we raised Hashem on high (placed Him on a pedestal), so He raised us on high, above all the other nations.

Targum Yerushalmi translates "He'emarto" and "He'emircho" as 'crowned' - "You crowned Hashem King, so Hashem reciprocated by ruling over you ... ".

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 606:
To Read the Parshah of Bikurim

A person bringing Bikurim to the Beis-Hamikdash, is obligated to read the relevant Pesukim (from "Arami oved avi" [26:5] until "ve'Atah hinei heveisi ... " [26:10]), as the Torah writes there (Pasuk 5) "and you shall announce and say before Hashem your G-d ... ". This Mitzvah is only part of the overall Mitzvah of bringing Bikurim to the Beis-Hamikdash, which the author has already discussed in Mishpatim (Mitzvah 91).

A reason for the Mitzvah is because what a person says affects his thoughts and makes an imprint on his heart, to the point that he firmly believes it to be the truth. Consequently, when G-d has been good to him, and blessed him and his land, which has produced fruit, some of which he has now brought to the House of G-d, it is befitting that he arouses his heart with the words that he speaks, to acknowledge that all that he owns is a gift from the Master of the Universe. It is an opportunity to relate G-d's kindness to him in particular and to K'lal Yisrael, in general. That is why he begins with G-d's salvation of Ya'akov Avinu from Lavan, and then goes on to that of K'lal Yisrael in general, whom G-d saved from the torment of the Egyptians (Hashgachah P'ratis and Hashgachah K'lalis respectively).

Following the praise, one asks Hashem for His blessing to continue flowing continually. And it is when he is aroused to praise Him for His goodness, that the gates of B'rachah are opened.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... what Chazal have said that there are some people who bring Bikurim but do not read the Parshah - a woman, a Tumtum and an Androginus (whose sexual organs are covered or who has those of both a male and female, respectively). The reason for the latter two cases is, because, due to the fact that Eretz Yisrael was distributed to definite males exclusively, neither of them is able to say "the land which You gave to me, Hashem". And a governor (who is looking after land belonging to others), an Eved Cana'ani and a Sheli'ach (who is bringing Bikurim on behalf of the owner) are precluded too, since none of these can say "which you gave to me Hashem" (seeing as they do not own the land). We can learn from here, how careful one has to be when Davening before Hashem, that every word should be accurate (bearing in mind that in former times, there were no Sidurim, and prayers were said by heart, increasing the chances of inserting something that was false) ... A Ger (a convert) on the other hand, does read the Parshah, since although he did not personally receive a portion in Eretz Yisrael, Avraham Avinu was the first to be given Eretz Yisrael as an inheritance, and the Torah considers him "the father of a multitude of nations", incorporating all Geirim ... Furthermore Chazal have said that someone who purchases two trees in a field brings Bikurim, but does not read the Parshah, because they are not certain whether someone who purchases two trees, automatically acquires the ground on which they are planted. Someone who acquires three, definitely does (someone who acquires one, definitely does not). The remaining details are discussed in Masechas Bikurim and in the seventh Perek of Sotah.

This Mitzvah applies to males only (as we explained), in Eretz Yisrael, at the time when the Beis-Hamikdash is standing, as the Torah writes in Mishpatim (23:19) "The first-fruits of your land you shall bring to the House of Hashem your G-d". Mi'de'Rabbanan however, they would bring Bikurim from the cities of Sichon and Og (on the other side of the Yarden) and from Syria. Someone who contravenes and fails to bring Bikurim in the right time, and read the appropriate Parshah, has negated this Mitzvah.

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