Ki Tavo 5767 – Gilayon #512
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Parshat Ki Tavo
GROPE AT MIDDAY, AS THE
BLIND MAN GROPES IN THE DARK, AND YOU WILL BE UNSUCCESSFUL
IN YOUR WAYS. YOU WILL BE ONLY OPPRESSED AND ROBBED ALL THE DAYS, AND NO ONE
WILL SAVE [YOU].
will grope at
You will be seeking good advice
regarding the alleviation of your troubles but there will be no one amongst you
who speaks the truth, [you will be] like a blind man groping through
impenetrable darkness, no one to lead you along the way. And so, you will be
unsuccessful in your ways. You will be only oppressed and robbed all the days,
and no one will save [you].
Yonatan Devarim ad loc)
R. Yossi said: My whole life I
have been troubled by this verse: You will grope at , as the blind man gropes in the dark
– why should a blind man care whether there is darkness or light? – [This
troubled me] until I was involved in a certain incident.
I was once walking in the
darkness in the middle of the night, and I saw a blind man walking along the
road with a torch in his hand. I asked him: "My son, what is the purpose
of that torch?" He told me: "As long as I hold this torch in my hand,
people see me and keep me safe from holes and thorns and thistles.
You will grope at midday – You will be so sorry and worried that you
will not even see light at .
The blind man in the dark – some blind people take in a bit of light when the sun blazes in its
power, and so it says ba'afela [in the dark]. It is known that afela
is worse than mere darkness because light cannot relieve it.
Yitzhak Shemuel Reggio ad loc)
And it will be if you obey – A Conditional Promise
to the memory of my father and teacher, David Flusser
the seventh anniversary of his death.
Ki Tavo was my father's Bar Mitzvah parasha.
he had been educated in an assimilated
read the haftorah – without comprehension.
only managed to identify it many years later thanks to the phrase
parashiyot of the Torah treat tokheha [the description of the nation's
punishments for its sins]: parashat Ki Tavo and parashat Behukotai. These
parashiyot offer detailed descriptions of the rewards and punishments that will
be deservedly visited upon the nation depending on whether it walks in God's
ways or rejects His laws and statutes. If we hearken to His voice, God's
blessing will influence every aspect of our lives: there will be peace in the
land, rain will fall at its appropriate time, and the earth shall yield its
bounty. If we do not hearken to His voice, we are to expect all of the
traumatic experiences of famine, war, and exile.
passage "Vehaya im shamo'a" ["And if you hearken"],
which we recite twice daily is a kind of concise icon of the tokhaha
passages and a salient reminder of them to us at the beginning and end of every
day. In those communities in which we get to hear the prayer-leader read the
passages of Kriyat Shema out loud, "media censorship" is
applied to this section, which is read in whispers, at best. The warning Beware,
lest your heart be misled… and the punishment, He will close off the
heavens, and there will be no rain, and the ground will not give its produce,
and you will perish quickly from upon the good land are left unheard. Do we
ensure in this way that the threat will not be carried out? To this we may add
one of the tangible dangers that we face today: the move from faith to
knowledge. Unambiguous faith that we are on the path to redemption may engender
the complacent attitude that everything is permitted to us. This complacency
can endanger our very existence. Scripture itself refers to the danger of
arrogance: Not because you are more numerous than any people did the Lord
desire you and choose you, for you are the least of all the peoples (Devarim 7:7): "This means that He desired them
because they do not aggrandize themselves" (MaHaRal of Prague, Hiddushei Aggadot
part 4 pg. 100). The choice of
stems from God's love of His people and not from self-love.
contains another expression that is liable to lead us to false and deceptive
conclusions. The designation am segula [a "precious," "treasured"
or "special" people], which appears three times in Scripture, is also
not a commendation. It does not claim that we are better than the rest. Rather,
it is a demand made of us as a people to be an am segula from all the
peoples. In parashat Ki Tavo, the expression am segula does not appear
in reference to God's relationship to the People Israel, but rather to the
People Israel's relationship to God: And the Lord has selected you this day
to be His treasured people. RaMBaN explains: "God exalted you and made
you great by your accepting the Torah in order that you be his am segula
from all the nations and to observe all His commandments, for only to you of
all the nations will He give his Torah and command you [to perform] all of the
commandments that are pleasing to Him, and not to another nation, as is
written: He tells His words to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to
Israel. He did not do so to any nation (Psalms 147:19-20)." This implies that not only does our being an am segula
fail to earn us any right or title, but rather it constitutes a challenge
towards us to walk in God' paths.
commitment to be an am segula demands of us a unique, constant, and
reciprocal relationship with the Holy One blessed be He. At the end of Yeshayahu
Leibowitz's deep discussion of the covenant between Israel and its God he
arrives at the conclusion that the two instances of ha'amara ["selection"
or "affirmation"] in our parasha, i.e., You have selected the Lord
this day, to be your God (26:17) and the Lord
has selected you this day to be His treasured people (26:18) show us that God's choice of Israel does
not parallel Israel's choice of God; rather, it is identical with it. I suggest
that we may borrow a term from the natural sciences – "symbiosis" – to
describe the reciprocal relationship of symbiotic responsibility between the
Holy One blessed be He and the People Israel: "You chose God to observe
His laws, statutes, and commandments and to hearken to His voice – and God
chose you to observe all of His commandments." God did not choose
chose God, rather
decision to choose God constitutes the substance of God's choice of
choice of the Holy One blessed be He is the reward for this deed. The right to
worship Him is the recompense or "reinforcement" received by those
who serve God and observe His laws and commandments.
educational methods are based on schemes of reward and punishment. One
sometimes gets the impression that we tend to forget the importance of rewards
and we end up engaged in punishment rather than in education; we tend to treat
the pupil as a laboratory animal. It is accepted practice in special education
to use concepts borrowed from the study of animal behavior, such as "reinforcements."
Reward is one means for developing the child's trust, and in the course of the
years we learn that "A commandment is its own reward" in everyday
life as well. The very performance of positive actions is the recompense or
profit we gain in everyday life; trust between a people and its God can be
built up along the same lines. The Holy One blessed be He accompanies the
people through its birth and later history, He directs and guides them, He
establishes limits while also granting the people the possibility of choice – the
choice of a path, the choice between good and evil. The "agreed framework"
has clear limits: on the one hand and all these blessings shall come to you
and on the other, and all these curses shall befall you. You, the People
Israel, shall determine your own future; I, the Holy One blessed be He allow
you the freedom to choose between these limits, but the responsibility is yours
and your alone. It is similar to the way a child chooses his path, knowing that
every choice has its price. This strengthening of the component of choice is
very similar to the choice offered by God to the People Israel in order that it
finds its way. The child's path is influenced by his human and social
environment; a people is influenced by the nations of the world and by its
relations with them. Like a child, the nation also requires limits, but inside
of those limits the nation – like the child – is granted freedom of choice. According
to new therapeutic methods, a person must be the one to determine the course of
his life and take responsibility for it through his deeds and beliefs. His
behavior does not only influence his own life; it also has consequences for
those around him. None of us has the right to cast off our responsibility and
place it upon another person or group. Every individual bears his own personal
responsibility alongside his responsibility as part of a nation whose future
will be determined by the choice between blessings and curses. To the extent
that many individuals in the nation take responsibility for their actions,
their way of life will have a positive influence upon the society as a whole and
upon the nation's future. This choice of choose life alongside the fulfillment
of the commandment to love the Lord your God, to hearken to His voice and to
cleave to Him are the conditions that guarantee our continued life and flourishing
in the land promised us on the condition that we keep our side of the covenant.
Flusser, past secretary and spokesman of Netivot Shalom, works in education.
Bringing of the First Fruits
and the Recitation of the First Fruits
And you shall
take of the first of every fruit of the earth As for the
reading on the occasion of the offering of the first fruits, it also is
conducive to the moral quality of humility, for it is carried out by him who
carries the basket on his shoulders. It contains an acknowledgment of God's
beneficence and bountifulness, so that man should know that it is a part of the
divine worship that man should remember states of distress at a time when he
prospers. This purpose is frequently affirmed in the Torah: And you shall
remember that you were a servant, and so on (Devarim 5:15;
For there was a fear of the moral qualities that are generally acquired by all
those who are brought up in prosperity – I mean conceit, vanity, and neglect of
the correct opinions: When you have eaten your fill, and have built fine
houses to live in, and your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver
and gold have increased, and everything you own has prospered, beware lest your
heart grow haughty and you forget the Lord your God Who took you out of the
land of Egypt… and you say to yourselves, "My own power and the might of
my own hand have won this wealth for me" (Devarim
And it says: So Yeshurun grew fat and kicked – you grew fat and gross and
coarse – he forsook the God who made him and spurned the Rock of his support
(Devarim 32:15). It is because of this apprehension that the commandment has
been given to carry out a reading every year before Him, may He be exalted, and
in the presence of His Indwelling, on the occasion of the first fruits.
(RaMBaM, Guide of the Perplexed
from your holy abode, from heaven… – The meaning is as follows: It is written the father of orphans, the
champion of widows, God, in His holy abode ("maon"). There are
those who pity orphans, but they [the orphans] are not to be found in his
house, but in an inferior house [the orphanage]. Not so God, Blessed Be He,
– He raises them as sons in his "holy maon", and therefore
the Israelite who brings the bikkurim recites I have also given it to
the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow" …and
therefore Look down from your holy maon. The Sages said (Haggiga, Chapter II, 12b): "[One of the skies is] "Zevul,"
etc. and Michael offers sacrifices of Maon, etc… So we see that the site of
the orphans is higher than that of the sacrifices. And so say our Sages in
Tractate Sukka (p.
49b): "The doing of
charitable deeds is greater than all the sacrifices, as is written, To do
what is right and just is more desired by the Lord than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3)"
Simha of Dvinsk, Meshekh Hokhma, Devarim 26:15)
In bringing the first fruits, I myself serve witness that it was God who
gave me the land as a portion and a gift. That is why it says you shall take
some of every first [fruit]:
It does not say give of every first, but
rather take, in order to tell you that it is by virtue
of these first [fruits] which you bring to God's House, to give thanks and
honor to His Name, that you can take any fruit of the earth. You will merit all
fruits of the earth after you acknowledge that you bring the first ones from
your land which God has given to you. For that land is not called
"your land" until you bring the first [fruits]. Upon bringing them,
you will be able to take all of the fruits of the earth. This bringing is the
recitation mentioned in the verse, I acknowledge this day (Devarim 26:3).
(Keli Yakar on Devarim 26:1)
"You Shall Be Happy – You Shall Make Others
Happy" – Joy As a Spiritual and Social Challenge
R. Yehoshua of Sakhnin said in the name of R. Levi: In the
merit of two things
purifies itself before the Omnipresent, in the merit of the Shabbat and in the
merit of tithes. From where [do we learn] the merit of Shabbat? If you
refrain from trampling the Shabbat (Isaiah
58:13), and what follows? Then I will set you aside the heights of
the earth (Ibid. 14). From where [do
we learn] the merit of tithes? You are to rejoice in all the good things
that the Lord your God has given you and your household, you and the Levite
and sojourner that is in your midst (Devarim
(Pesikta D'Rav Kahana, Mandelboim ed.,
You shall rejoice on your festival (Devarim 16:14) You find three references to
joy in regard to the [Sukkoth] festival: You shall rejoice on your festival (Devarim 16:14), And you shall be, oh so
joyful! (Ibid., ibid. 15), and And
you are to rejoice before the presence of the Lord your God for seven days (Vayikra 23:40). But with regard to Passover,
joy is not mentioned even once. Why not? Because on Passover, the grain crop is
standing in judgment, and no one knows if it will succeed this year or not,
therefore there is no mention of joy. An alternate explanation as to why joy is
not mentioned: because of the death of the Egyptians.
(Pesikta D'Rav Kahana
(Mandelboim), Addenda, Parasha 2)
How to Rejoice… When You Are Sad
If you do not feel happy, pretend.
Even if you are caught up in depression, try to smile, act
as if you are happy.
And true joy… will certainly come.
(From Sihot of R. Nahman of Breslav)
The Connection Between Song and Joy
Get used to singing a tune,
This will give you new life and will fill you with joy.
(Likkutei Etzot by R.
Nahman of Breslav)
And walk in His
"Clinging to God" Must not Justify Disregard for Ethical Commandments
The Lord will establish you as His holy people, as He swore
to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord and walk in his ways:
If you keep [them] in such a way that one who wishes to practice holiness
and clinging to God will not want to shun the observance of the commandments,
for sometimes they [the commandments] disturb the clinging [to God]. In any
case, it is necessary to observe the commandments, whether they be related to
Heaven or to relations between people; that is the meaning of walk in His
ways – just as He is merciful, so too, you should be merciful, etc…This
admonition was already made clear in the passage dealing with tzitzit,
that customs of holiness and piety should not detract from the observance of
commandments – even of commandments dealing with relations between
people…some commandments cannot be observed while one is in a state of
clinging [to God], including that of walk in His ways, which deals with
human concerns. Therefore one should break one's concentration from holiness in
order to act. In any case the Lord will establish you as His holy people,
and immediately after performing the deed you will again achieve the state of
holiness and clinging that you had attained earlier.
(The NeTziV Mi'Volozhin's Ha'Amek Davar)