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1. The words 'arami oved avi' are included in the words of gratitude pronounced by the person bringing the first-fruits to the Temple. What does that expression mean according to (a) Rashi and (b) Ibn Ezra?
2. Why, according to the Sforno, is the 'confession' on the tithes at the end of the three-year cycle so called (Talmud: Ma'aser Sheini 5:10), even though the text of that declaration does not mention any actual sins?
3. The word 'hashkafa' in the Torah normally refers to looking at a situation to determine what punishment is appropriate. Why, according to Rashi (to Gen. 18:16), is that word used in the context of the Confession on the Tithes, whose text concludes with G-d being ask to 'look down ('hash'kifa)… and bless your people, Israel'? (26:15)
4. What text was actually to be written on the stones when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, according to (a) Rashi, and (b) Ibn Ezra?
5. The Torah lists the text of the curses to be declared on Mount Ebal. What do the twelve particular subjects of the curses have in common, according to (a) the Rashbam and (b) the S'forno?
6. What is the meaning of 'Cursed is he that causes a blind person to go astray' (27:18), according to Rashi?
7. Why are the first set of blessings (see Rashi to 27:12) and curses written in the plural, and the second set written in the singular, according to the Ohr Hachayim?
8. What is the meaning of G-d's promise to bless the righteous 'in the Land' (28:8), according the Ha'emek Davar?
9. The Torah declares that the curses would come because the Israelites would not serve G-d 'be-simcha u-vetuv lei-vav' (28:47). What is the simple meaning of that expression, and what is its 'double meaning', according to the Hatam Sofer?
10. What may be learnt from Moses' stressing that his 'going with the Israelites' extended to 'forty years' (29:4), until they 'came to this place'? (29:6)
ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS ON THE TEXT AND COMMENTARIES ON PARASHAT KI-TAVO
1. According to Rashi, the words 'arami oved avi' refer to Laban the Aramite (Gen. 31:20) who was persecuting 'my father' - namely the Patriarch, Jacob. This is way the Passover Hagada renders that phrase. However, Ibn Ezra follows the more literal meaning, taking 'oved' as an adjective, rather than the imperfect tense of the verb. He therefore understands that section as 'My father was a wandering Aramean' - meaning that Jacob spent much of his life away from his homeland in the territory of Aram, when he fled to Laban and later came to serve him.
2. According to the Sforno, there is an underlying connection between the tithes and the sin of the Golden Calf, which is alluded to in the declaration being called 'the confession on the tithes'. Had the Israelites not worshipped the Golden Calf, the tithes would not have been given to the tribe of Levi at all, but would have remained within the household - given to the firstborn. For every home could have been a sacred temple - service being the privilege of the firstborn.
3. The word 'hashkafa' is used here to teach the following lesson, according to Rashi. When the Israelites give to the poor, the Divine Attribute of Justice is transformed into the Divine Attribute of Mercy.
4. The text on the stones was to be 'ba-er hei-tev' - well clarified (27:8). According to Rashi (following the Talmud: Sotah 32a), clarity meant written in the 'seventy languages' of the time. Ibn Ezra, taking the simple meaning, renders that phrase to mean that the text should be clear and legible. He also quotes Saadia Gaon's view that stones contained all the commandments, but not the text of the entire Torah.
5. According to the Rashbam, the subjects of the curses are all acts people do secretly, thinking no one - including G-d - takes note. The S'forno comments that these offences are things done by the powerful and influential (c.f. Kings I 21:1-16) - often beyond the reach of the law. Thus Moses wanted the people to declare that they despised such deeds, so that the people would not be punished for the corruption of those they could not restrain.
6. 'Cursed is he that causes a blind person to go astray', according to Rashi, is broadened to include misleading someone who is ignorant ('blind') of the truth, or the correct course of action.
7. According to the Ohr Hachayim, the first set of admonitions - in the plural - is directed to national spiritual downfall. The second set - written in the singular - is directed towards individuals, warning them that they cannot use the merits of their generation to cover up their own shortcomings.
8. This phrase is understood by Haamek Davar to mean that people will not have to leave the Holy Land to earn their living, but they will find sources of prosperity within the Land of Israel itself.
9. The simple meaning of this phrase is that the curses fall on the Israelites because of their grudging, rather than grateful and happy attitude to keeping the Mitzvot when times are good. The Hatam Sofer, however, interprets this verse as meaning that G-d's anger is roused when Israel does not serve G-d - and is happy and 'good hearted' not to do so.
10. The stress on 'forty years' and 'to this place' is meant to hint at the idea that it takes forty years for a person to fully understand his genuinely learned Torah teacher. Until then, he is still learning: after that, he is expected to be fully conversant with Torah ideals (following the Talmud: Avodah Zara 5b).
ADDITIONAL QUESTION ON PARASHAT KI-TAVO
'It shall be that just as G-d rejoiced over you to be good to you and multiply you, so G-d will cause them (Israel's enemies) to rejoice over you - to make you perish and destroy you…' (28:63) These words form part of the climax of the tochacha - words of dire warning of the Israelites' fate should they neglect and abuse the observance of the commandments. Why should G-d be stated as making the gruesome work of those enemies who bring destruction on Israel pleasurable? For the Talmud (Megillah 29a) implies that G-d himself suffers when His Chosen People are forced into exile: when Israel is dispersed, His Presence travels with them. So the Babylonians and later the Romans did not only 'hurt' the Jews, but (anthrop morphologically) they 'hurt' G-d as well.
My attempts to answer the above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website under Ki-Tavo 5761.
This D'var Torah is written in loving memory of my dearest Mother, Harabanit Devora Solomon ztl. who ascended to the Yeshiva Shel Ma'ala on Shabbat Ki Tavo five years ago. May her memory be blessed, and be a source of blessings.
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
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