Parshas Ki Savo
When you come into the land which G-d, your G-d gives to you as an
inheritance, and possess it . . . (Devarim 26:1)
We are heading down to the wire. There are only one-and-a-half weeks until
Rosh Hashanah and a new year. And what a year it has been! There have been
so many changes; some expected and some completely out of the blue -
literally. In the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001, 25,000 people could
easily have died, but by a miracle only less than 3,000 people perished.
Near the end of 5765, a hurricane (Katrina), and they rarely kill a
hundred people, resulted in the deaths of 25,000 people and we are still
"Who by fire, and who by water . . ." Those words have had tremendous
significance this last past year. What will they mean in the upcoming year?
What is the nature of an inheritance? The root of the word is "heir,"
meaning, someone who is legally entitled to the property of the one who
has died. However, that implies that the original owner from whom it is
being inherited already purchased/owned the land in the first place to
create the legal connection to the land. Who was that in this case?
Thus, Rashi said:
In the beginning, G-d made the Heaven and the Earth . . . (Bereishis 1:1)
Rebi Yitzchak said, "The Torah should have begun with, "This month shall
be for you the first of months" (Shemos 12:1), which is the first
commandment given to Israel. Why does it begin with Creation? Because, "He
declared to His people the strength of His works in order that He might
give to them the heritage of the nations" (Tehillim 111:6). For, should
the peoples of the world say to the Jewish people, "You are robbers,
because you took by force the lands of the seven nations!", the Jewish
people can respond to them, "All the earth belongs to The Holy One,
Blessed is He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleased. When He
willed He gave it to them, and when He willed He took it from them and
gave it to us." (Rashi)
Thus, G-d set the record straight from the start: He is the owner of all
the lands, and therefore, He is in a position to give land as an eternal
inheritance to whomever He wishes. Therefore, though He could have given
the land to us as a gift, and it would have been binding, giving it to the
Jewish people as an "inheritance" implies not only a legal connection to
the land, but that we are also heirs to G-d's property, so-to-speak.
Of course, someone does not need to die first to make possible the
transference of ownership to an heir; it can happen during one's lifetime
as well, which is important in this case since G-d never dies. And, of
course, one can reject his inheritance by simply not taking possession of
it when such possession is possible, or even by just showing a disdain for
the gift of his ancestor before he even receives it.
This is why four-fifths of the Jewish population of Egypt in Moshe
Rabbeinu's time died during the Plague of Darkness: they had rejected
their portion in the inheritance of Eretz Yisroel and had opted to stay in
Egypt instead. What they hadn't figured on was that their very existence
depended upon receiving their inheritance, since it also implied they
didn't wish to be G-d's heirs.
As to why this is so, the posuk makes clear:
I am G-d, your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the
land of Canaan, to be a G-d to you. (Vayikra 25:38)
Thus, inheriting Eretz Yisroel was about far more than simply inheriting a
piece of land on the east side of the Mediterranean Sea. Rather, it was
about inheriting G-d Himself, something that only the Land of Israel makes
possible, as the Talmud states:
One should always live in the Land of Israel, even in a town where most of
its inhabitants are idolaters. Let no one live outside the Land, even in a
town where most of its inhabitants are Jews. For whoever lives in the Land
of Israel may be considered to have a G-d, but whoever lives outside the
Land may be regarded as one who has no G-d. For it says, "I am G-d, your G-
d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan,
to be G-d to you" (Vayikra 25:38). He doesn't have any G-d? Rather, it is
to tell you that whoever lives outside of the Land may be regarded as one
who worships idols. Similarly, it was said in [the story of] David, "For
they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave to the
inheritance of the L-rd, saying: 'Go, serve other G-ds.'" (I Shmuel
26:19) But who said to David, "Serve other G-ds"? Rather, it is to tell
you that whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who
worships idols. (Kesuvos 110b)
The question is, why is this so?
. . . Then you must take from the first of all the fruit that grows
the ground that G-d, your G-d gives to you, put it in a basket . . .
There is little that shows possession of land more than planting in it and
harvesting the crop. In halachah, if a person remains on someone's land
for three uncontested years, harvesting each year, then he becomes a
muchzak; it is assumed that he is the legal owner of the property in
As mentioned earlier in other essays, the Vilna Gaon saw the re-harvesting
of the land by the Jewish people after 2,000 years of its remaining barren
as not only a big mitzvah, but an essential part of the final battle
against Amalek at the End-of-Days. According to the GR"A, Amalek only has
hold over the land while it remains desolate, and therefore, he does
whatever he can to make it remain that way.
That is why the before-and-after pictures of Gush Katif are so
frightening. Before, there were beautiful red-roofed houses and
greenhouses producing 70 percent of the bug-free produce in this country.
After, there is only rubble. It is amazing how long it took to build up
the area and how quickly it came down, something, perhaps, only the people
of Louisiana can now understand today.
As many point out today, the merit that has kept the secular Zionists
around for so long was their affiliation with the religious Zionists, and
the fact that they built cities in Eretz Yisroel. The real hitnatkut that
resulted from the fall of Gush Katif was the severance of the religious
Zionists from the secular ones, virtually cutting off the flow of life-
giving kedushah to the Klipos. As for the cities they built, they are
tearing them down as hitnatkut spreads like a virus throughout Eretz
The bringing of the first-fruits: is our proof of ownership over the land
and to the Temple, and was a way of acknowledging that being an heir would
be meaningless if there wasn't someone from which to inherit. Jews took
the very symbol of that inheritance and brought it up to the very Source
of that inheritance, to G-d Himself, completing the circle of relationship.
This is not possible in Chutz L'Aretz because the mitzvos dependent upon
the land, such as Bikurim, are not applicable there. True, a Jew must be
grateful for all that he has no matter where he is living in the world,
and to show appreciation for that good at all times. However, there is
nothing like actually bringing in the bounty with which we have been
blessed back to G-d, in part, to connect our lives to Him.
Obviously, G-d is a Jew's G-d no matter where he lives. Nevertheless, in
Eretz Yisroel there are built-in mechanisms to focus us on this reality on
a daily basis, primarily with the produce of the land upon which we
survive. Torah is also our inheritance, but it is the food upon which we
live that makes the average Jew real with life, and real with the Source
of his life-giving inheritance.
. . . And go up to the place which G-d, your G-d will choose to place
Name. (Devarim 26:2)
Of course, nothing concretizes the fact that we are heirs of G-d and His
Presence more than the fact the He has chosen to allow a house to be built
for His Shechinah, the place of contact between Heaven and Earth. And,
even though the Temple is not built at this time, the Temple Mount clearly
exists as a reminder of this reality. One day the Temple will surely
One may ask, "But in the meantime, there are two mosques on the Temple
Mount, and access, for the most, remains forbidden to the Jewish people?"
Though it is painful to see this, it is not complicated to understand. If
the mosque wasn't there, then either a church or a hotel would be there,
both of which are very poor substitutions for the Temple. For the Arabs,
with all their mishugas, at least worship a single version of G-d.
In fact, far more remarkable than the fact that the mosques are still
there is the fact that the Western Wall (the Kotel) also remains and is
open to the prayers for the Jewish people. Given the dynamics of world
history, only a very little trace of the Temple should exist at all today,
and the Arab world is doing all it can to expedite the process. However,
the Kotel does remain and Jews can sit in the dust of their Temple of the
past, waiting patiently for arrival of the third and final Temple.
The truth is, the fact that the Temple Mount is a place of worship to a
foreign religion, and that its icons are so clearly visible as one enters
the Western Wall Square, is a vivid and painful reminder that, as good as
life has become for the Jew today, the Shechinah is still in exile, and
therefore, so are we. They walk freely where we cannot walk because they
lack the laws of spiritual purity, reminding us that, as pure as we feel,
we are still quite impure.
Tisha B'Av only occurs once a year for the Jewish nation. However, for the
Jew who makes a point of descending the stairs to the Kotel area on a
weekly, if not a daily basis, it is Tisha B'Av EVERYDAY that we have to
witness with our own eyes and ears the current status of the Temple Mount.
Personally, it is such an experience that enhances my feeling of the
Presence of G-d, for I can better feel the sorrow of the Shechinah that is
forced to "wander" like Her people the entire time Her house remains un-
It is ironic, that a churban (destruction) can invoke such a level of G-d-
consciousness as the G-d of the Jewish people in Eretz Yisroel, in ways
that the most lovely shul in Chutz L'Aretz cannot. For, even the most
fortified shul in the Diaspora still represents a temporary reality, even
if it should exist forever, at some point, it has to make its way to Eretz
On the other hand, the place of G-d's Name is as permanent a reality as
one can get in this world, even if the Temple is not physically there.
Moshe, and the Levitical priests told all of Israel, "Be careful and
attention Israel: today you have become the people of G-d, your G-d.
Therefore, obey G-d, your G-d, and do His commandments and His statutes,
which I command you this day." (Devarim 27:9-10)
Which brings us to the blessings and the curses: The parshah starts off on
a friendly tone and then seems to change gears as it launches into the
blessings for obedience and the curses for the opposite. What is the
connection to idea of inheritance of the land and the bringing up of
It has been said that we only hurt the ones we love; the ones we don't
love, we don't care enough about to hurt them.
The truth is a little different than that. If we hurt the ones we love, it
is not for the sake of hurting them, but in response to the hurt that we
ourselves have already felt. The more mature approach is to say, " I don't
know if you realize it, but what you just said really hurt my feelings."
The less mature way to communicate the same message is to hurt the other
person back, hoping he or she will get the message and say, "Oh, did I
hurt you? Sorry about that."
Sometimes, however, even if we take the more mature approach it only gets
worst. Rather than apologize for the hurt they have caused, people often
show resentment for being accused of improper behavior. This creates a
circle of hurt that can often end up in a temporary or even permanent, G-d
forbid, breakdown in the relationship. It is amazing how much people can
hurt one another in the name of love, or more accurately, in need of love.
G-d always takes the mature approach in pointing out to the Jewish people
where they have strayed in terms of the relationship. However, the Jewish
people do not always take to the message in a mature and responsible way,
and often continue with their spiritually abusive behavior, increasing
the "hurt," so-to-speak, to G-d.
Of course, we can't really ever hurt G-d; G-d is not emotionally
vulnerable as we humans are. Nevertheless, He likes to show us what we are
doing in human terms so that we can relate to the consequences of our
actions. Therefore, after seeing that we have not responded correctly to
His protest against our misbehavior, He turns up the volume on the
protest, until life becomes as unbearable as we have made it for Him, so-
Believe it or not, all of it is meant to show us, the Jewish people, how
much we matter to G-d, and how much He considers us to be His heirs, so-to-
speak. Then, once we realize that, we can then appreciate what it is we
are meant to inherit, and what that inheritance is meant to mean to us.
Then, we can finally COME up to the land, for entering Eretz Yisroel is
about far more than simply moving onto the land; it is about playing the
role of the heir-apparent to the One Who created the world and Who decides
to whom every parcel of land will go.
Have a great Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.