The Torah Portion of Ki Tavo
THE MONTH OF COMPASSION AND FORGIVENESS
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat Zehava Bat Shlomo z"l
"And it shall be, when you will enter the land..." (Devorim 26:1)
The Hebrew word "Tavo" (in English: "you will enter") has the same letters as the Hebrew word "Avot" (in English: "Patriarchs"). Because of the merit of the Patriarchs, we merited to receive the Land of Israel.
"An Aramean would have destroyed my father, and he descended to Mitrzrayim (Egypt)..." (Devorim 26:5)
It has been asked, what is the connection between Lavan the Aramean and the descent to Mitzrayim (Egypt)? The explanation is that Lavan was the cause of the Egyptian exile, because he exchanged Leah for Rachel and therefore the firstborn son was Reuven. And if he hadn't exchanged them, the firstborn son would have been Yosef, and the sale of Yosef would not have occurred, and they wouldn't have gone down into Egypt. Therefore we find that Lavan caused the Egyptian exile.
"An Arami ( that is, an Aramean) would have destroyed my father, and he descended to Mitzrayim (Egypt) and he sojourned there, few in number, and there, he became a nation -- big, numerous, and great." (Devorim 26:5)
The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh explains, "an Arami" refers to the Evil Inclination because it is a big Ramai (in English: a deceiver. Note that the Hebrew words "Arami" and "Ramai" both have the same letters.) The Evil Inclination deceives people in order to destroy them. "Destroyed my father" refers to the fact that the Evil Inclination caused the first man, Adam HaRishon, to sin. Adam HaRishon was our first father, and this destroyed him and caused death to him and the generations that follow him. "And he descended to Mitzrayim" refers to the the body of the person, because the body is called "Mitzrayim" since it causes distress (in Hebrew "Maitzar", which is a similar word to "Mitzrayim") to the soul because of its desires. "And he sojourned there", because in the beginning the Evil Inclination enters into the person just to sojourn there on a temporary basis. "Few in number" , means with only a small amount of power. "And there he became a nation -- big, numerous" , means that afterwards the power of the Evil Inclination increases by what the man himself does. "And great", that is to say, the Evil Inclination is great. Similarly, the Arizal explains the verse "And forgive my sin because it is great" (Tehillim 25:11), that this is a request that Hashem should forgive my sin because the Evil Inclination is great.
"And you will be happy with all the goodness..." (Devorim 26:11)
The Ohr HaChaim says, that "all the goodness" is also hinting to us about the Torah, as it is said in Pirkei Avot (Chapter 6, Mishnah 3) "And there is no goodness except for Torah". For if people would feel the sweetness of the Torah and the pleasantness of the Torah's goodness they would be passionately crazy about it, and all the silver and gold in the world would seem in their eyes as nothing (by comparison), for the Torah contains all of the goodness in the world.
The Bikkurim (The First Fruits)
The Ari says that the Mitzvah of Bikkurim is an atonement for the sin of the Meraglim (the Spies), in order to show that we cherish the Land of Israel, and also to teach us not to be gluttonous, since the first fruits are for the Mitzvah of Bikkurim. Also, the Bikkurim instruct us regarding the trait of Gaiva (Arrogance), since the Mishna says that even the King needs to hold the basket of the Bikkurim on his shoulder as in the case of Agrippas HaMelech, because it is not appropriate to be haughty before Hashem.
The Four Verses explained in the Passover Haggadah (Verses 5, 6, 7, 8 in Devorim Chapter 26)
The four verses that are explained in the Passover Haggadah (Verses 5, 6, 7, 8 in Devorim Chapter 26), come from the section about the Bikkurim (the First Fruits). Why are the explanations in the Passover Haggadah based on these four verses from the section about the First Fruits, and not from the story of the Exodus in Shemot, which is where the Exodus from Mitzrayim is written about? The reason is that the concept of Hakarat HaTov (Gratitude) is written about within the section about the First Fruits, and at Passover we thank and express our gratitude to the Holy One Blessed Be He for all his kindness.
"I have not transgressed any of your commandments, and I have not forgotten... " (Devorim 26:13)
This is stated at the time of Vidui Ma'aserot (Confession of the Tithes). This occurs twice in seven years, 1) on Erev Pesach after the third year, and 2) on Erev Pesach after the sixth year. What is the meaning of "and I have not forgotten" ? Rashi explains "and I have not forgotten" , that I haven't forgotten to say the blessing about separating the tithes. There are those that explain that the Sages say that if someone doesn't separate tithes, rats come and eat his produce, and if someone eats food after a rat ate part of it, that will cause forgetfulness. And this is why it says, "and I have not forgotten" -- I fufilled the Mitzvah of tithing, and therefore rats didn't eat my produce, and I wasn't caused to become forgetful. (from Mayana Shel Torah)
Vidui Ma'aserot (Confession of the Tithes)
The Soforno explains why it is called Vidui Maaserot (Confession of the Tithes), for in truth the Divine service needed to be performed by the Bechorot (First Born men), but only because of the sin of the Golden Calf, the T'rumot and Ma'aserot (offerings and tithes) are transferred to the Kohanim and the Levi'im. And that is why it is called the Confession of the Tithes -- because we are regretting our sins. There are those that explain that the reason is it called Vidui Ma'aserot (Confession of the Tithes), is that the Hebrew word Vidui is similar to the Hebrew word Vadaut (certainty), that is to say, we need to ascertain that in truth that the removal (of the tithes) was done properly. And also in the Vidui of Teshuva (the Confession when we Repent), the person confessing ascertains what he did in private and in public.
"Cursed is one who strikes his fellow in secret..." (Devorim 27:24)
The Chafetz Chaim says that there are those who request blessings from Tzaddikim (righteous men), and if the person is a Ba'al Lashon Hara (habitual speaker of derogatory speech) the blessings cannot take effect, because it is written "Cursed is one who strikes his fellow in secret" (Devorim 27:24), and this is referring to someone who speaks Lashon Hara (derogatory speech). If 600,000 Jews cursed him how can a blessing be effective?
"Cursed is one who will not uphold the words of this Torah..." (Devorim 27:26)
It is told that a man came to the Chafetz Chaim together with his son, to ask for a blessing. The Chafetz Chaim told him, you don't need my blessing. If you send your son to a Talmud Torah, you don't need my blessing, because all of Israel blessed you, saying "Blessed is one who will uphold the words of this Torah". And if your son learns in a Chiloni (anti-religious) school, my blessing won't help, because all of Israel cursed you when they said "Cursed is one who will not uphold the words of this Torah". The man was very impressed that the Chafetz Chaim knew that he was giving his son a Chiloni education, and he did Teshuva (repented). (from Torat HaParsha)
"Blessed is one who will uphold the words of this Torah..." (based on Devorim 27:26 -- since for each of the curses which were stated, a blessing was also stated)
The Ramban says that someone who properly performs Hagbaha (the elevation of the Torah scroll in front of the congregation) is included within the blessing, "Blessed is one who will uphold the words of this Torah". One of the Tzaddikim (Righteous Men) saw someone gluing Seforim (Holy Books) in the Bait HaKnesset (synagogue), and told him to say "Blessed is one who will uphold the words of this Torah". This blessing also includes those who hand out and arrange Seforim in the classroom, and those who return Seforim to their place.
"And it will be that if you do not listen ... then all these curses will come upon you and overtake you." (Devorim 28:15)
The Tirgum Yonatan says, that when Moshe began the words of this rebuke, the Earth quaked, and the Heavens shook, the Sun and the Moon darkened, and the Stars gathered in their brightness, and the Patriarchs of the World screamed from their graves, and all the creatures were still, and even the branches of trees did not move. And the Patriarchs of the World were saying, Chaval (Oy Vey!) on our children when they will sin and these curses will come upon them. How will they be able to stand them, and perhaps they will be destroyed entirely, and our merit will not protect them, and there won't be a single person who will stand up and pray for them? A Bat Kol (Heavenly Voice) came down from the Heavens and said, don't be afraid Patriarchs of the World, even if the merit of all the generations will cease, your merit will not cease, and the Covenant which I established with you will not be cancelled and it will protect them.
"Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this Torah, Hashem will bring them upon you, until you are destroyed." (Devorim 28:61)
In this week's Torah Portion, 98 curses are written, and in addition there are two more in "Also every sickness, and every plague" . Together that makes 100. In parallel to that, the Sages have established 100 blessings (to be said daily) to overcome the curses. May Hashem grant us that the year and its curses will end, and for this reason we read the curses before Rosh Hashana. And the Tosefot adds, that it is necessary to have a break between the curses and Rosh Hashana, so that we read another Torah Portion (such as Nitzavim), so that we don't enter immediately after the curses into Rosh Hashana. One of the Tzaddikim (Righteous Men) said that the reason we read the curses before Rosh Hashana is so that we will fulfill the curses only by means of reading them and not have them occur in actuality. (from Mayana Shel Torah)
REGARDING THE DAYS OF JUDGMENT
"Elokim has ascended with a blast, Hashem, with the sound of the Shofar." (Tehillim 47:6)
It is known that the name Hashem is associated with the trait of Mercy and Compassion, and the name Elokim is associated with the trait of strict Justice. Thus, the explanation of this verse is that "Elokim has ascended" , that is, the trait of strict Justice is exchanged by means of the Shofar to Hashem, which is the trait of Mercy and Compassion.
"Had I not (in Hebrew: Lulei) believed that I would see the goodness of Hashem..." (Tehillim 27:13)
The first word of this verse in Hebrew is "Lulei" , which has the same Hebrew letters as the month of Elul. The implication is that in the month of Elul, we need to strengthen ourselves in faith.
The Rambam's words regarding the Shofar: "Arouse yourselves, sleeping ones from your sleep, and dormant ones awaken from your dormancy, and search out your deeds and return in repentance and remember your Creator."
It is said that Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev remarked after the sounding of the Shofar: we blew 200 Shofar blasts on two days (of Rosh Hashana), and we are requesting from the Holy One Blessed Be He only one Shofar blast, and that is the Shofar of Moshiach who will be revealed speedily in our days Amen.
"...He walks along weeping as he carries the bag of seed, he will come with joyous song as he carries his sheaves." (Tehillim 126:6)
The Tzaddikim (Righteous Men) explain: "He walks along weeping" -- if a man grumbles and has complaints, then "he carries the bag of seed", that is, he receives a small package. "He will come with joyous song" -- if a man is happy with his portion, then "he carries his sheaves" , that is, he will receive great abundance.
"....MAY I DWELL IN THE HOUSE OF HASHEM ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE..." (Tehillim 27:4)
The Torah Portion of Ki Tavo has 122 verses. 3 positive commandments. 3 negative commandments.Haftora: "Kumi Ori" (Yishayahu 60).Pirkei Avot, Chapter 3 and 4.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772
May you be written and sealed for a Good Year.