Ki Tavo 5772 – Gilayon #765

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Parshat Ki Tavo

Bread you did not eat,

And wine and strong drink you did not drink,

So that you might know that i

am the lord your god

(Devarim 29:5)


"Bread you did not eat,

and wine and strong drink you did not drink" – […] you did not eat it

in order to live from it, for your primary sustenance was the manna, "that

you know that I am the Lord your God" who sustains you miraculously. This

does not mean that they ate no bread at all, as with Moshe who "ate no

bread and drank no water", because there were occasions when Israel did

have bread in the wilderness, as is written "Food for silver you shall

sell that I may eat, and water for silver you shall give me, that I may drink….

as the sons of Esau, who dwell in Seir, and the Moabites, who dwell in Ar, did

for me" and our Sages recalled (Yoma 75b): Things

which merchants of the nations bring to them in the wilderness. And it may also

be that, from the time that manna began to fall until they reached Seir they

ate no bread at all, because they walked through a great and fearful

wilderness, but in the fortieth year they approached a settlement and they were

told "Command the people as follows: You are passing the border of your

brothers, sons of Esau, purchase food from them" and it says there "These

forty years has the Lord your God been with you, you have lacked nothing",

and from that time onwards, the Edomites and the Moabites would greet you with

bread and water and the nobles of Israel would purchase from them and they

would eat for pleasure, not for need nor for satiety, for their main source of

sustenance was the manna.

(Ramban, Devarim



"Bread you did not eat,

and wine and strong drink you did not drink" – This is juxtaposed with

Sihon and Og sallying forth to meet you in battle (v. 6). It is known that warriors are prepared

from youth to be large and courageous, to eat bread and meat to satiety, and

wine to strengthen them and to make them happy, as is written "and bread

that sustains man's life (Psalms 104:15),

and "wine that cheers the hearts of man" (ibid), so that they will win in battle. Like those who eat swine

flesh and drink from fountains of wine, and thus they are brave warriors,

skilled in war. But people who are raised on eating refined foods and drinking

clear water, it is appropriate that they stand in the halls of kings, serving as

his courtiers and servants, but they are not fit for battle. The children of

Israel left servitude broken and despondent, and they wandered through deserts,

and did not eat normal bread, but fine bred suited for nobility was absorbed

into their body, and they did not drink wine, but waters salted and sometimes

bitter. How could they fight against enemies who drink from fountains of wine

and eat bread and meat? Therefore he said to them: See how great are the deeds of God, and know that victory is not for

the daring, neither with power nor with strength will man overcome, but with

the spirit of God. And behold, you walked forty years in the wilderness,… 'Bread you did not eat, and wine and strong drink

you did not drink as did the warriors, as is written "and Malkizedek King of Shalom brought out bread and wine" (Bereishit 14:18), and

they said: This is done for the battle-weary. And despite all this, "…

you came to this place, and Sihon king of Heshbon and Og king of the Bashan

sallied forth to meet us in battle and we struck them down", not in natural

fashion. The warriors raised on bread and wine and

meat fell before the weak who consume finer foods. All this

because God is good to you.

 (R' Avraham

ben Yaakov Sava, Tsror HaMor, ibid.,




On concern for society's disadvantaged



Dedicated to the memory of my beloved grandfather,

R' Yisrael Hollander, a year

after his passing

As part of the

Viduy recited upon extermination of tithes, man appeals to God "Look

down from Your holy dwelling place, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel and the soil

that You have given us as you swore to our fathers, a land flowing with milk

and honey" (Devarim


The words "Look

down from your holy dwelling" as interpreted by R' Meir Simcha HaCohen of Dvinsk in his commentary "Meshech Chochma", present three

themes with great social-religious significance, linked together by

emphasis on the premier importance of concern for the weaker members of society.

At the outset,

R' Meir Simcha quotes the passage from Psalms (68:6) "Father of orphans, judge of

widows, the Lord in His holy dwelling" which connects the phrase "From

Your holy dwelling place" to the orphan and widow who are listed – along

with the Levite and the stranger – among the recipients of tithes. This passage

teaches us something about the Holy One's attitude to the orphan and the widow;

He does not have mercy upon them "from afar" but in His very

dwelling place, as members of His household. So, too, must be the attitude

of man to the various needy. There is, of course, great convenience in

distancing the weak and the unfortunate, such as the pauper, the infirm, the

immigrant or varieties of the 'other" to the margins of society. Their

presence alongside us, or among us, is unpleasant, for numerous reasons, and we

can feel good about ourselves when we show concern for them, individually and

collectively, to the best of our ability, as long as they are 'there'. Still,

their placement 'outside the encampment', physically and conceptually, clearly

expresses alienation and feelings of supremacy. The model which the Holy One

establishes is different: true concern for the other in general, and for the

individual in particular, must receive expression also through our bringing him

closer and integrating him.isHH

In his commentary on the passage "And you shall love your fellow man as

yourself" (Vayikra

19:18), Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch writes: "We have here total

equality for all as a guiding principle for all our actions, according to this

we will seek the welfare of our neighbor as our own, we will turn egotism and

self-love into love of our fellow and safeguarding of his dignity, we will

learn to love and to respect every being with total equality with ourselves".

Concern for the other demonstrated from a position of detachment is, of

course, preferable to apathy and insensitivity, but it still contains

inequality which violates the wholeness of appropriate love of the other.

The second theme

in R' Meir Simcha's commentary is based upon a

Talmudic discussion {Hagiga 12b). Resh

Lakish argues that heaven contains seven firmaments which he enumerates, from

the least important to the most sublime: vilon, rakia,

shehakim, zevul, maon, machon and areivut. In the firmament called zevul

are found Jerusalem and the Temple and the angel Michael offers a

sacrifice on the altar; that is to say, this firmament represents the mitzvah

of sacrifices. The firmament called ma'on

connected above ["holy dwelling place"] to concern for orphans

and widows, is found above zevul in the hierarchy of firmaments. From

this R' Meir Simcha learns that human sensitivity

towards society's weak is more important than the offering of sacrifices. He

buttresses this assertion with the Talmudic statement (Sukkah 49b) that giving charity is greater than all the

sacrifices. One gets the impression that R' Meir Simcha's

words echo Isaiah's censure "What need have I of all your sacrifices? […] devote

yourselves to justice, aid the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow." (Isaiah 1:11, 17). He clarifies the proper relationship between

these two components of the religious existence. We have before us, then, an

exegetical-ideological expression of the order of priorities befitting the

religious person, obligating him to place the social dimension of his existence

before the ritual-ceremonial dimension.

A yet sharper

and more explicit formulation of this can be found in R' Saadya

Gaon's commentary on Proverbs 24:27: "Thus,

hearing the prefaces which are its key, there will be no benefit for man in one

part of them without the second part. This means, that the mitzvoth

based on revelation [mitzvoth shemiyoth], such as the fast, Shabbat,

festival, and matzoth are of no benefit to their observers unless he precedes

them with the mitzvoth based on reason [mitzvoth sichliyoth], such

as truth, righteousness and justice, and the distancing of murder and

licentiousness and theft and similar severe transgression. This is the [heart

of] the matter: Repair your conduct towards people and afterwards [your

conduct] between yourself and your God, and do not steal and give of it to

charity, do not behave licentiously and then fast". R' Saadya regards fulfillment of man's ethical-social

obligations as the sine qua non for proper fulfillment of his religious duties

towards the Holy One. One hopes that this order of priorities will gain

increasing acceptance in the religious outlook of contemporary individuals and


The third theme

is intertwined with a halachic context. The Meshech Chochma connects two

different laws: (A) It is permitted on Chol HaMoed –the Intermediary

Days of the Festival– to eulogize a Torah scholar prior to burial, even though

with respect to mitzvoth pertaining to joy these days are considered

festival days and eulogy is forbidden. (B) Judges must give precedence to cases

involving orphans over cases dealing with scholars. The connection between the two

laws is based upon the fact that the mitzvah of rejoicing on the

festival is Torah-mandated, whereas the prohibition of work during chol

hamoed is rabbinically imposed. Therefore, since the eulogizing of a

scholar takes precedence over the Torah-mandated mitzvah of rejoicing,

and since the orphan takes precedence over the scholar, we may logically infer

that attending to the needs of orphans takes precedence over the prohibition of

labor on chol hamoed. It seems that the Rabbi of Dvinsk is proposing a broad

interpretation of a law touching upon the scheduling of cases. In his view,

preference of the orphan over the scholar is not just a local issue; it is a

sweeping principle: "He takes preference over the scholar". There is

a special importance to social sensitivity towards the weaker group, typified

in this case by the orphan.


Dror Ehrlich lectures in Jewish Philosophy in Bar-Ilan U.



Gentiles Who Are Gathered Beneath the

Wings of the Shechina Are the Children of Avraham

The ger brings [Bikkurim] and recites, for

Avraham was told "For I will make you a Father of a Throng of Nations";

he is the father of all the

world who gather

beneath the wings of the Shechina, and Avraham was first to receive the promise

that his descendents would inherit the land; Kohanim, Levites also bring and

recite, because they have [land in] unenclosed cities.

(Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Bikkurim 4:3)


The recitation of bikkurim

"You are to take from

the premier part of all the fruit of the soil" – The recitation of

the Bikkurim text is also an expression of humility, because he carries the

basket on his shoulder; it also expresses recognition of God's goodness and

favors. The service of God includes the remembrance of difficult times and

tribulations even in times of prosperity.

(Rambam, Guide

for the Perplexed, III, 39)


And walk in His ways: "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 on Devarim 28:9)


And you shall take some of every first fruit of the soil (Devarim 26:2): Permission to Enjoy the Fruits of the Land is connected

to Recognition that The earth is the Lord's and all the fullness



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)


"And the Egyptians did evil to us"

The Ohr HaHayyim on Devarim 26:6 notes that the Hebrew for "did

evil to us" may also be read as "made us evil", implying that

under the negative influence of the Egyptians, we became as evil as they.



the Egyptians did evil to us – The Haamek Davar, also noting the above grammatical option,

explains: They made us evil and ungrateful, to the point where they suspected

us and said "And he too will join our enemies…" something which Israel

had never intended. The reason for this lies in Israel's sin, as explained in

the parasha of the "Covenant of the Pieces"- because of excess

tranquility they desired to divest the name Israel, and this, too, is included

in "and they did evil to us", they made us evil towards God.


man or group has a monopoly on the Torah

"Now Moshe and the Levitical priests spoke" – [Note: The

Hebrew for 'speak' – daber may also be

read as davar'thing' or 'event'] What happened there? This comes to teach us that Israel

came and said to Moshe: You took the Torah and gave it to the Priests, as is

written "And Moshe wrote this teaching [Torah] and gave it to the Priests"

Responded Moshe: Do you want them to make a covenant with you that whoever

wants to learn Torah will not be prevented? They said to him: Yes. The stood

and swore that no one will be prevented from reading the Torah, as is written "To

all of Israel

saying'. Said Moshe to them: 'Today you have become a nation.'

(Yalkut Shimoni

Devarim 27, continuation of 1038)


And on those stones you shall inscribe… most distinctly


distinctly teaches us that the words should be explained and made

understandable. They learned from this that this copy of the Torah included a

translation so that the nations of the world might understand it, since Israel

is far removed from the kind of particularism attributed

to it by gentiles. Rather, it saw its mission from the very start as the

bringing of spiritual and moral redemption to all of humanity, and the future

salvation of all nations began with the Torah's entrance to the Land of Israel.

(Rabbi S.R. Hirsch on Devarim 27:8)



are you in the city, and blessed are you in the field: Since the foundation of individual and national life is

ethical purity and their lives will be one of observance of the mitzvoth

of charity and loving-kindness, God will bestow upon you His blessing in the

field, will bless the fruits of your womb and the fruits of your soil and your

herds; for your children are born in order to live ethical lives, just and

loyal to duty.

(Rabbi SR Hirsch, Devarim 28:3-4)



blessing a person merits obligates him to share it. It is written in the Sifri: "You shall surely tithe all

the produce of your seed which grows in the field yearly" (Devarim 14:22). This

would seem to indicate that only produce of the seed requires tithing, but from

where do we know that interest and business and all other profits [are also to

be tithed]? The Torah emphasizes 'all' and we read in Devarim Rabba (7:5) "Blessed

are you in the city, and blessed are you in the field' – Said R' Yitzchak:

So that one should not say 'if the Holy One had given me a field, I would have

raised tithes from it' – but if one has no field, he should give from his possessions

in the city."

To me

it seems that one must also give of what he inherits from his father, even

though his father may have been scrupulous in his tithing, nonetheless now the

son has received this wealth, why should he not give tithe of that which the

Holy One has granted him?. It is not applicable to say the 'the son stands in

his father's place', because the son is his own legal persona, for even

during his father's lifetime one [the father] could empower his independent son

to accept the eruv on behalf of others, because 'his hand is not that of

his father' (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Hayyim 366:10), and certainly now that he is deceased, he is a separate


(Shelah, Tractate Megillah 27)


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