Ki Tavo 5768 – Gilayon #567

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Parshat Ki Tavo







And there you will

worship gods, man's handiwork

This is the greatest of

punishments; none of the torments that befall a man are harsh compared to this

evil and bitter disease in which the soul sinks into the depths of abomination.

He is inescapably caught up in the net of sin and the soul can know no greater

pain than when it recognizes its sin and rebellion, remaining unable to stand

up against the habit of transgression. This punishment accords with the Sages'

dictum: "The wages of transgression are – transgression." There is no

balm for such a soul until it gathers up all its strength to struggle and free

itself of the bonds of habit, as is written in the next verse, and you will

find Him, if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.


Yitzhak Shmuel Reggio, Devarim 4:28)


After you, following your bad

choice, have worshipped false gods, you shall be exiled among the nations and

worship other false gods, not of your choosing, but rather from coercion (Don

Yitzhak Abarbanel). It is well known that people get disgusted with things that

they are forced to do, that is why it says next, And from there you will

seek the Lord your God. And so we find that after they were exiled to

Babylon and forced to prostrate themselves before a golden idol that their

inclination towards the worship of false gods was broken and they ceased

whoring after other gods, except for a few people in the Second Temple period

who strayed after the Greek gods. And they did so not because they liked

worshipping false gods, but rather in order to find favor in the eyes of the

kings and princes.


Devarim 4:28)




my children, Nili and Amit


their entering the covenant of marriage

These are the

words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children

of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which he made with them in

Horeb.(Devarim 28:69)

Chaim Rubinstein


covenant is entered into by partners; by parties sharing a common interest; by

the strong and the weak. A covenant is signed when there are weaknesses, when

there are weak points, breaks in the defenses. When there is a need for mutual

reconciliation. The covenant expresses reciprocal obligation; embrace,

dialogue, understanding, and mutual loyalty. Walking together towards common

goals. The parties to the covenant unite forces, property, and tools. The

covenant transforms the partial into a whole.

God entered

into a covenant with Abraham: On that day, the Lord formed a covenant

with Abram, saying, "To your seed I have given this land, from the river

of Egypt until the great river, the Euphrates river (Bereishit 15:18).

And again in the covenant at Horeb: and Israel encamped there

opposite the mountain… and the Lord called to him from

the mountain, saying, "So shall you say to the house of Jacob and tell the

sons of Israel, 'You have seen what I did to the Egyptians,

and [how] I bore you on eagles' wings, and I brought you to Me.

And now, if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out

of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth. And you shall

be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation'" (Shemot 19:1-2).

When the Israelites cross the Jordan they are

to renew the covenant with God, as is described in our parasha:

When you cross the Jordan, the following

shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people… And

the following shall stand upon Mount Ebal for the curse… The

Levites shall speak up, saying to every individual of Israel, in a loud voice

(Devarim 27:12-14).

Rashi explains:

to bless the people As it is

found in Tractate Sotah (32a): Six tribes

ascended to the top of Mount Gerizim and [the other] six to the top of Mount

Ebal; the kohanim , the Levites and the [holy] ark stood below in the middle.

The Levites turned their faces towards Mount Gerizim and began with the

blessing: "Blessed be the man who does not make a graven or molten

image…," and these [the tribes on Mount Gerizim] and these [the

tribes on Mount Ebal] answered "Amen!" Then [the Levites] turned

their faces towards Mount Ebal and began with the curse, saying: "Cursed

be the man who makes any graven [or molten] image…," and these [the

tribes on Mount Gerizim] and these [the tribes on Mount Ebal] responded "Amen!…Thus

[it would continue] in this manner for all of them [the blessings and curses]

until [the very last curse, namely (verse 26)]:

"Cursed be the one who does not uphold [the words of this Torah]."

(Judaica Press translation)


covenant was entered into from a position of weakness, from the place were the

parties to the covenant were not protected, the break in the fence. The

covenant grants the protection of each to the other. The covenant is a patch

upon the weak spot. Covenant is a link between its parties, between separate

bodies that are mutually linked by a contract.


covenant is formed at a place of weakness and transforms it into a point of

strength. The weak-point is fortified. The People Israel join a covenant with

the God of its land. The covenant strengthens and continues the covenant made

at Horeb.

In the

valley, a less protected place, the priests and Levites stand and make the

covenant between the parts of the people and their God. The covenant is made in

the central town of the Land's residents, the Canaanites. The place where the

covenant is made symbolizes the motivation behind the covenant: two mountains

linked by the valley that lies between them. A covenant made of part, Covenant

between the Pieces [Brit ben haBertarim]. The covenant of

circumcision. Please place your hand beneath my thighat the weak



ceremony renewing the covenant is performed as the Israelites' first deed upon

their entering the Land. Upon entering a new stage in the life of the nation,

they renew their covenant with God:


are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make

with the children of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which he

made with them in Horeb. (Devarim 28:69)


be he who does not uphold the words of this Torah, to fulfill them. And all the

people shall say, 'Amen!' (Devarim 27:26)


covenant obligates one party to obey all the words of the Torah and the other

party to protect the People Israel. This convocation symbolizes the convocation

at Sinai but at a higher stage – not in the desolate wilderness, an unknown and

irrelevant land, but rather in the homeland which is to give the people succor.

The Land which was abandoned when Jacob left it with seventy others and now

hundreds of years later the people return to it. With the renewal of its

settlement comes the renewal of the covenant. As with Horeb, here too there are

mountains and a valley or plain. The physical attributes parallel the spiritual

ones – the unification of the people of the hills and the valleys, of the

children of the matriarchs with the children of the maidservants. Like the

unity symbolized by the ephod, the ceremony symbolizes the unit of all the

tribes of Israel. The center of the Land of Israel lies between Mount Gerizim

and Mount Ebal. The place of unification is also the place of separation. Hundreds

of years later the Kingdom of Israel will be torn from the Kingdom of Judah in

this place where the covenant was made.

This is the covenant:


have selected the Lord this day, to be your God, and to walk in His ways, and

to observe His statutes, His commandments and His ordinances, and to obey Him. And

the Lord has selected you this day to be His treasured people, as He spoke to

you, and so that you shall observe all His commandments. (Devarim 26:17-18)


his book on Parashat haShavua (page 890), Yeshayahu Leibowitz cites a

surprising explanation of the covenant between God and Israel. In his Mikra

KiPshuto Ehrlich suggests that the he’emarta ["has selected

you" or "spoken of you"] of the covenant should be understood in

the light of the phrase asa ba ma'amar [literally: "performed a

word with her"] that is used in reference to a yabem [man who

enters into a levirate marriage] who takes in his yevama; it alludes to

sexual relations. That is to say: the covenant between God and Israel is

similar to the covenant between husband and wife. It is a covenant that is

renewed from time to time.


Onkelos translates the words et Hashem he’emarta [You have selected

the Lord] as hashem hatavta, and Hashem he’emirkha [the

Lord has selected you] as hashem hatevakh. He uses a word related to

the Hebrew hativa. Jastrow's dictionary states that word hatav

comes from the Arabic hatab, which means "betrothal." That

means that ha'amara refers to someone betrothing his beloved. The

covenant between God and Israel is a lover's covenant, each loves and honors

the other and wants to establish reciprocal relations in which God gives the

Torah and His Godly protection, and the People Israel return love to Him by

observing his commandments. It is a lovers' discourse. That is the intent of

the following midrash:


have selected the Lord this day… And the Lord has selected you this day… The Holy one blessed be He said to Israel:

You made Me one unit in the world and I shall make you one unit in the world. You

made me one unit in the world, for it is written, Hear O Israel, the Lord is

your God, the Lord is one (Deavrim 6). And I have

made you one unit in the world, for it is said, And who is like unto Israel,

one nation in the land (II Chronicles 17). (Hagigah 3a)


ancient times the betrothal and the wedding were separate from each other. So

too with the relationship between Israel and its God: the covenant of Horeb,

made in the desolate wilderness is separated from the covenant made with Israel

upon its entry into the Land of Canaan, a land teeming with false gods. The

first curse is, Cursed be the man who makes any graven or molten

image an abomination to the Lord, the handiwork of a craftsman and sets it up

in secret! And all the people shall respond, saying, 'Amen!' (Devarim 27:15). There are two covenants, the first made when the people were freed of

their yoke of slavery and the second upon their entry as a free nation into

their homeland. The covenant is renewed immediately after the Jordan is

crossed: Then Joshua built an altar to the Lord God of Israel on

Mount Ebal. As Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded

the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the Law of Moses (Joshua 8:30).

The covenant

undertaken in the hills of Shekhem was only the beginning; the relationship

between lover and bride would yet see many crises, ups and downs, as are known

to us from the books of the prophets, and as occurs with every couple that must

work on their relationship, to continue and sustain it, to endure by

communicating and engaging in dialogue. They do not turn their backs on each

other and relate to difficulties as to challenges which they must go through

together. As we read in the love poetry of the Song of Songs (4:8-9):


me from Lebanon, my bride, with me from Lebanon shall you come; you shall look

from the peak of Amanah, from the peak of Senir and Hermon, from the lions'

dens, from mountains of leopards. You have captivated my

heart, my sister, [my] bride; you have captivated my heart with one of your

eyes, with one link of your necklaces.

Chaim Rubinstein,

Ben Brit (Son of the Covenant)


Readers Respond (to Devorah

Greinman's article in the Re'eh edition)

Devorah Greniman's article (Shabbat Shalom

number 564) offers a worthy

example of a relevant political interpretation of Torah law. She begins with

the prohibition against "spilling blood" and ends with an emotional

comment on the use of cluster-bombs in inhabited areas. Her citation of the

great scholar Jack Milgrom (referring to his article on "Blood" in

the Encyclopedia Judaica) was also of great importance. Milgrom points

out that the prohibition against eating blood is unique to Israel and is

without parallel in the other cultures of the ancient East. I will further

support these ideas with a quotation from RaMBaM which grants a

"social" commandment priority over a "religious"

commandment (and I purposefully cite it now on the eve of the High Holy Days).

In Hilkhot Rotzeyah 4:9,

RaMBaM places the prohibition against spilling blood at the pinnacle of the

hierarchy of commandments, even above the prohibition against idolatry:

"For even though there are sins more serious than bloodshed, none destroys

the inhabitation of the world as does bloodshed." That is to say that

murder is worse than idolatry, because it destroys human civilization. Furthermore:

"Even idolatry, and it is unnecessary to mention prohibited sexual

relations or Sabbath desecration, are not like bloodshed. For those sins are

transgressions of man against God, but bloodshed is a sin of man against his

fellow and anyone who has committed that sin is completely wicked." This

halakhah, which grants total priority to "social" commandments over

"religious" commandments, is fantastic, and apparently unique in our

literature (this complements Milgrom's claim).

Up to this point we are in

agreement, and from here on we are in disagreement. I fully support the stand

taken by Netivot Shalom against social injustice and bloodshed, but it is

precisely that Archimedean point that led me to the Right. I cannot acquiesce

to the Left's tolerance of the terrible bloodshed undertaken by Moslem society,

systematic bloodshed that is a way of life.

The Mideast conflict is between

two civilizations which are radically different from each other in regard to

two central issues. While Jewish society (this is a generalization, but a

justified one) abhors bloodshed (the "blood" mentioned by RaMBaM-Milgrom-Greniman),

Moslem society "sanctifies" blood. In addition, while Jewish society

takes responsibility for it actions, and even for sins that it did not actually

commit (apparently, a pathological consequence of chronic breast-beating over

sins: ashamnu bagadnu… – "We have incurred guilt, we have

betrayed… "), Moslem society never takes responsibility for anything,

and especially not for the tide of blood with which it has flooded our land and

the entire world. The Right protests, but the Left barely stammers.

In conclusion: it is good that Shabbat

Shalom raises the alarm regarding social injustices and rejects the

"sanctification" of blood, for that is the whole Torah. However, it

should reach an opposite political conclusion, and our violent neighbors, who inscribed

these negative values upon their banner, should not enjoy anyone's moral and

political support – certainly not the support of people of peace.

Your comrade and halfway

sympathizer (that is to say, a comrade who shares your moral sentiments, but

not their political application),

Amnon Shapira, Tirat Tzvi


Devorah Greniman, author of

the article, replies:

I am honored that Dr. Amnon

Shapira chose to relate to my article. That being said, I find it difficult to

understand why Dr. Shapira feels that I engaged in giving "a relevant

political interpretation of Torah law."

Relevant – yes – but political?

I did relate to events from the last war in Lebanon – the IDF's use of cluster

bombs in inhabited areas – but I did not take a stand regarding the justness or

usefulness of the war itself. Furthermore, I qualified my words with the

understanding that sometimes the use of such weapons must be considered in

order to protect the lives of our soldiers – a qualification that would seem to

sit well with Dr. Shapira's position. As a mother who currently has two sons

serving as combat soldiers, I do not take that factor lightly.

And so, Dr. Shapira agrees that

there is no place for disagreement over the fact that the Torah requires that

exceptional care be taken in everything involving bloodshed. If so, why is the

expression of this concern immediately identified with a leftist political

position? Is it because the blood in question is that of Arab civilians in time

of war, and not Jewish blood, which is always "thicker"? I think that

the clear position stated by Dr. Shapira on this issue does not lead to the

conclusion that in time of war one is allowed to strike at the enemy – civilian

and combatant – without taking any moral restraints into account. I naively

thought that followers of the Torah both of the "Right" and of the

"Left" would agree on precisely this issue.

Dr. Shapira goes on to claim

that Moslem society "sanctifies" blood [quotation marks are from the

original text – D.G.] while Jewish society abhors bloodshed, and that Moslem

society "never takes responsibility for anything" while Jewish

society "takes responsibility for it actions." Take notice – suddenly

we turn from the discussion of classical Jewish texts to generalizations

about Moslem and Jewish societies. I am not well acquainted with Islamic

literature, and so I cannot express an opinion on the positions Islam takes

generally as regards blood and bloodshed. As for society, that, I believe, is

to be judged by its own eyes and according to its own norms and conscience, and

not by the deeds and norms and conscience presumed by others. Our own society

is far from being free of bloodshed, as a quick glance at the daily newspapers

of any day will demonstrate. As I have tried to point out, the Torah does not

merely require us to take responsibility for bloodshed after the fact, but

rather to always take the greatest care in such matters – before the deed and

during the deed. By "stammering" something (to borrow Dr. Shapira's

expression) following the violent death of non-combatants and innocents, we

have not yet accomplished anything in the eyes of the Torah.

War is violent, and talk of

"purity if arms" is an oxymoron. Nevertheless, the fact that

apparently we cannot do without bloodshed at this time does not absolve us of

the obligation to take great care in such matters. This is not just another

factor to be considered among the whole constellation of factors, rather it is

the supreme factor, as Dr. Shapira has claimed, following RaMBaM. I hope that

we can both agree on that point.


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