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

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Vol. 13   No. 47

This issue is sponsored
Li'Ch'vod ha'bas-Mitzvah shel
Tamar Tziyonah Gordon n.y.
May she be a constant source of Nachas
to her parents and to the whole of K'lal Yisrael

Parshas Ki Savo


The Three Mitzvos

The Gemara in Kidushin (37b) teaches us that, with the sole exception of Chalah in Parshas Sh'lach (15:18 [in connection with which the Torah uses the unusual expression of "When you come to the land", implying immediate effect]), all Mitzvos to do with the land only applied after 'the fourteen years of conquering and settling'. The source for this is Bikurim, where, in the first Pasuk in the Parshah, the Torah spells out the Mitzvah of Bikurim only after writing (26:1) "and you shall inherit it and dwell in it".

In spite of this D'rashah, the Or ha'Chayim, who first comments on the opening word in the Pasuk "ve'Hayah" (which always has connotations of Simchah) that there is no Simchah that compares with that of settling in Eretz Yisrael, goes on to explain the opening Pasuk quite differently. If the subsequent Pasuk comes to teach us the actual Mitzvah of Bikurim, he explains, the Pasuk that precedes it refers to the three Mitzvos that lead up to it;

1. To know without any shadow of doubt, that we did not inherit Eretz Yisrael by virtue of our own military prowess, but as a gift from G-d (hence the insertion of the words "which Hashem your G-d has given you"). And what's more, the Or ha'Chayim adds, it should be clear that He only gave it to us in order to accept His Sovereignty upon ourselves.

2. To drive out the current inhabitants, G-d's enemies, from the land (" ... and you shall possess it").

3. To inhabit the land and to settle it (" ... and you shall dwell in it").

The K'li Yakar elaborates on the first Mitzvah listed by the Or ha'Chayim, though he derives it from a different source. Citing the Pasuk in Behar (25:23) "And the land you shall not sell permanently, because the land belongs to Me, for you are merely sojourners and dwellers with Me", the K'li Yakar explains that we must take great care not to believe for one moment, that the land is truly ours, and that this is precisely what this Parshah is coming to teach us. Indeed, he explains, the main objective of the Mitzvah of Bikurim is to teach us humility and subservience to G-d, a contention which he also cites from the Rambam.

And he proves his point with the Pasuk's use of the word "I have told Hashem ... ", although in reality, the owner of the fruit has not yet said anything. To be sure he hasn't, he explains, but he has brought his first-fruits to the Beis-Hamikdash. And that is akin to a confession that the land from which these fruits grew is not his, and that he lives in the land only by virtue of G-d's "promise to the Avos that He would give it to us".

In fact, he says (in similar fashion to what Chazal have said with regard to reciting B'rachos over our food), it is only after having actually taken some of the fruit with the intention of proceeding with it to Yerushalayim, that one becomes the owner of the food.


This Kohen, That Kohen

'You can only take your Bikurim to the Kohanim of your time, just as he is', Rashi explains, commenting on the Pasuk "And you shall come to the Kohen who will be in those days".

This comment is out of place, argues the Ramban. It makes sense with regard to judges, where Chazal make a similar comment on the same phrase that the Torah uses in Parshas Shoftim (17:9). After all, if it is a Torah-related ruling that one wants, then it is obvious that the more learned the person one asks, the more reliable will be his opinion.

But what is its significance with regard to Kohanim? How will the level of the Kohen, for better or for worse, affect the validity of the Bikurim?

The Ramban therefore interprets the Pasuk with reference, not to one particular era, but to the week during which a specific Mishmar (group of Kohanim) is serving. And what the Torah is saying is that one is not permitted to bring one's Bikurim to the Beis-Hamikdash, together with one's own hand-picked Kohen, with the view of giving him one's Bikurim (or to wait for a Mishmar in which one's Kohen relative or friend is serving - Chizkuni). Rather one is obligated to give the Bikurim to whichever Mishmar happens to be serving that week (whether one's Kohen relative or friend is serving in it or not).

The Ramban concludes however, that the Sifri seems to interpret the Pasuk like Rashi, but what the Sifri means, he says, is that if one handed one's Bikurim to a Kohen who appeared to be Kasher, but who later turns out to be Pasul, one has nevertheless fulfilled one's Mitzvah (though others interpret the Ramban differently - see Chaval's notes on the Ramban).


The K'li Yakar, taking a similar line to that of the Ramban (even though he specifically comes to dispel his [the Ramban's] Kashya on Rashi), cites the Chazal in Kesubos (105b), who, based on a Pasuk in Melachim, explain that whoever presents a Talmid-Chacham with a gift, is considered as if he has brought Bikurim to the Beis-Hamikdash. In that case, he argues, one may well have thought that one should wait for a Mishmar in which Talmidei-Chachamim are serving, so as to give one's Bikurim to a Talmid-Chacham, in keeping with the Gemara.

The reason why this is not the case is presumably because Bikurim must be taken to the Beis-Hamikdash and presented to the Kohen there, right beside the Mizbei'ach. So what the Gemara in Kesubos teaches us is that a Talmid-Chacham wherever he is, is considered Hashem's representative, just like any Kohen in the Beis-Hamikdash (whose position is not contingent upon his personal level of Torah-knowledge).


The Seforno presents a third explanation of the Pasuk under discussion. According to him, the Torah is not concerned about not giving one's Bikurim to the Kohen who is entitled to it, but to giving him his due Kavod. The Kohanim who are serving in the Beis Hamikdash may not be the greatest of sages, but one must nevertheless communicate with them with the full respect that the Parshah affords him, as if one was bringing the Bikurim to Hashem Himself.

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Parshah Pearls

Interfering with Destiny

"The swindler (Lavan) destroyed my father (Ya'akov), and he (Ya'akov) went down to Egypt" (26:5).

What is the connection between Lavan and Ya'akov's going down to Egypt, one may well ask?

The Alshich answers this question however, by reminding us that it was due to Lavan tricking Ya'akov (by giving Ya'akov Le'ah in place of Rachel), that Yosef was not the first of Ya'akov's sons to be born (despite the fact that he was destined to be the B'chor). And it was as a result of this interference with destiny that the brothers' jealousy was aroused, when Ya'akov gave Yosef what may be termed as a symbol of the birthright, which, they believed, was not his by right. And it was a result of this jealousy and its aftermath that they were subsequently forced to accompany Ya'akov down to Egypt.


Beis-Hamikdash First ,
Eretz Yisrael Second?

"And He brought us to this place (the Beis Hamikdash) and He gave us this land" (26:9).

The question arises as to why the Pasuk seemingly inverts the order of events, by mentioning the Beis Hamikdash first and Eretz Yisrael second, when in fact, they built the Beis Hamikdash only many years after inheriting Eretz Yisrael?

The Eitz ha'Chayim answers with the well-known Targum Yonasan, who, commenting on the Pasuk in Yisro "And I carried you on eagle's wings", explains that on the night of the 15th Nisan in Egypt, G-d transported the whole of Yisrael to the Beis Hamikdash, where they ate the Korban Pesach.

Granted, it is difficult to conceive exactly what the Targum Yonasan means, and how such an episode took place. There is no denying however, that the Targum Yonasan says it. That being the case, our problem is solved, for it now transpires that K'lal Yisrael visited the Beis-Hamikdash long before they took possession of Eretz Yisrael.

Proof of this explanation lies in the Torah's choice of words "And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land".


Putting Words into Hashem's Mouth

"You made Hashem say today that He wants to be your G-d" (26:17).

This is how the I'bn Ezra translates the word "he'emarto", and you attained this achievement, he explained, by virtue of your good deeds.


With the Result that ...

"And G-d designated you today to be for Him a treasured nation ... and to observe all His Mitzvos" (26:18).

Your uniqueness, says the K'sav ve'ha'Kabalah, lies in the fact that He gave you the Mitzvos to fulfill, a privilege which no other nation possesses. And not only that, but a gentile who studies Torah or who keeps Shabbos, is actually Chayav Miysah.



"Today, you became a nation" (27:9).

The Torah is referring to the day that Yisrael accepted under oath, to uphold the Torah, observes R. Shimshon Refa'el Hirsch. It is neither our own land nor our own language, nor any other national trait, that determines Jewish nationhood, but rather accepting upon oneself the yoke of Torah. As proof of this, Yisrael wandered in the desert for forty years without a land of their own, and without any national symbolism (with the sole exception of a common language) - but they had the Torah, for which end they left Egypt in the first place.

This is the uniqueness of K'lal Yisrael! Their nationhood is formed by their bond with G-d, and that bond is formed through the Torah. For so Chazal have said 'Kudsha B'rich Hu, Yisrael ve'Oraysa Chad Hu'.


The Torah, the Whole Torah
and Nothing but the Torah

"Cursed be the one who does not uphold all the words of this Torah (in order) to perform them" (27:26).

As is well-known, the original reformers maintained that it was necessary to lighten the yoke of Torah Judaism, to take some of the burden of Mitzvos of their followers, so as to encourage the people of that generation to retain their Jewishness. If one demanded complete adherence to Torah and Mitzvos, they argued, they would find it too difficult, and would leave the fold altogether.

But that, says the K'sav Sofer, is precisely what the Torah is warning against. The Pasuk specifically curses anyone who comes to lighten the yoke of Torah, even if it is with the aim of observing the rest of the Mitzvos.

G-d knows that each and every Mitzvah is a vital part of our spiritual survival kit, and what's more, He, in His wisdom, has assessed that, in principle) it is humanly possible for every Jew to observe them all, and nobody has the right to decide otherwise.


Fearing G-d Visibly

"And the nations of the World will see that the Name of G-d is 'called' on you and they will be afraid of you" (28:10). What the Pasuk means to say, says the P'ninim mi'Shulchan ha'G'ro, is that, on account of our purity and sanctity, the fear of G-d will be so blatantly evident, that the gentiles will virtually see G-d's Name written all over us (the key word, he says, is "olecho" [on you]).

In light of the G'ro's explanation, the Botzina de'Nura's explanation of the words "ve'yor'u mimeko" are extremely apt. He translates them as - 'and they will learn to fear G-d from you'.


The Fears of R. Elazar ben P'das

"Hashem will open for you His good storehouse, the Heaven ... " (28:12).

The Gemara in Ta'anis (28a) relates how R. Elazar ben P'das (the Master of Eretz Yisrael) was desperately poor, and that in his fear that his constant state of fasting might cause him to rebel against his Creator, he prayed for G-d to change the 'Mazel' of bad Parnasah under which he was born. G-d agreed under certain complicated conditions, but when R. Elazar heard that the majority of his allotted years had already passed, he withdrew his request.

The P'ninei mi'Shulchan ha'Gro explains this with the Gemara in Yuma. The Gemara (38b) states that once the majority of a person's allotted years have passed without his having sinned, he is assured that he will not sin any more.

R. Elazar was not perturbed about his having to fast per se, but rather that the incessant fasts might Chas ve'Sholom, cause him to sin. That is why, the moment this fear was dispelled, he was no longer worried about going hungry.

Incidently, this incident is a wonderful object lesson in true Yir'as Shamayim - a fear not of punishment, but of sin.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 609:
Not to Eat Ma'aser Sheini be'Tum'ah

It is forbidden to eat Ma'aser Sheini, even in Yerushalayim, in a state of Tum'ah, until it has been redeemed, and the Halachah permits the redemption to take place, even in Yerushalayim, as the Gemara explains in Makos (19b). This is what the Torah means when it says in Ki Savo (26:14) "I did not destroy it (i.e. eat it) be'Tum'ah"; as if it had written 'Do not destroy it be'Tum'ah', and "I did not eat it be'Tuum'ah" too, is synonymous with 'Do not destroy it be'Tum'ah'. And it is for the same reason that all the expressions that appear later in the Pasuk are considered La'avin ("I did not eat from it whilst I was an Onein" and "I did not use it for a Meis"), even though they are written as such, and this is also inherent in the words that follow "I listened to the voice of my G-d", which clearly implies that He commanded all this. A reason for distancing oneself from Tum'ah, the author already wrote many times in the course of the Seifer.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Gemara in Makos (19b) explains that the word "be'Tum'ah" implies both that the person is Tamei (even if the Ma'aser is Tahor) and that the Ma'aser is Tamei (even if the person is Tahor). Either way, one is subject to Malkos, provided that is, that one eats it in Yerushalayim, since that is where it is meant to be eaten, and that is where the La'av applies. Should he eat it outside Yerushalayim, the Chachamim say, he does not receive Malkos min ha'Torah, though he does receive Makas Mardus (Malkos mi'de'Rabbanan) ... the remaining details are discussed in Makos (Ibid.)

This Isur applies to both men and women when the Beis-Hamikdash is standing (when the Mitzvah of Ma'aser Sheini is min ha'Torah).


Mitzvah 610:
Not to Spend Ma'aser Sheini Money on Anything Other than Food and Drink

One is not permitted to spend the money of Ma'aser-Sheini on anything other than food and drink, as the Torah writes in Ki Savo (26:14) " ... and I did not spend it for the needs of a deceased person, I listened to the voice of Hashem my G-d", implying that he did not spend it on something that does not sustain.

A reason for this Isur ... as to why one may not purchase whatever is not food or drink, and not even such things as silver and golden vessels or slaves, is to be found in the general Mitzvah of Ma'aser Sheini, in Parshas Re'ei.

Some Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The Mishnah in Ma'aser Sheini (2:1) permits spending Ma'aser Sheini money on things with which one anoints oneself (e.g. oils and perfumes), based on the principle that eating and drinking incorporate anointing. This, in turn, is because anointing strengthens and benefits one's body just like food and drink. Anything else, says the Sifri, is forbidden, even if it is for a D'var Mitzvah. In the event that one did purchase other items, one takes the equivalent amount, and pays Ma'aser Sheini back, by buying with it in Yerushalayim, food, drink or something to anoint oneself, and eating it there ... and all other relevant Halachos, are discussed in Maseches Ma'aser Sheini.

This Mitzvah applies to both men and women, in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash, because that is when the obligation to separate Ma'asros is min ha'Torah. Someone who contravenes the La'av and spends Ma'aser Sheini money on anything other than food, drink or for anointing (during that period) has transgressed a La'av. He is not however, subject to Malkos, since he remains obliged to repay the money by purchasing any of the above, and eating it in Yerushalayim, as we explained.


Mitzvah 611:
To Go in the Ways of Hashem Yisbarach and Emulate His Example

We are commanded to do whatever we do in an upright and good way to the best of our ability, and to tilt all our interaction with our fellow man in the direction of kindness and mercy. The Torah teaches us that this is the modus operandi of G-d and that He wants us to do likewise, in order to merit His goodness. And it is in this regard that the Torah writes in Ki Savo (28:9) "And you shall go in His ways" (and the Torah repeats this Mitzvah in Parshas Eikev, where it writes [10:12] "... to go in all His ways"). Chazal interpret this Mitzvah as 'Just as Hashem is merciful, so too, should you be merciful; Just as He is gracious, so too, should you be gracious. Just as He is Righteous, so too should you be righteous, and just as He is Holy, so too should you be holy'. In short, we are obligated to study G-d's superlative Midos, regarding His relationship with us, and try to emulate them to the best of our ability (even though, we cannot really fathom the depths of His Midos).

(to be cont.)

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